* FTSEurofirst 300 down 0.2 percent
* Iberdrola fall knocks utility sector
* Strategists see dips as buying opportunity
* PPR surges on results beat
By Tricia Wright
LONDON, Feb 15 European shares nudged lower on
Friday, held back by weak utilities and banks, although some
strategists saw technical and other evidence of scope for
The STOXX Europe 600 Utilities Index and the Banks
index were both among the worst performing European
sectors, nursing respective falls of 0.6 percent and 0.7
Utilities were knocked by a 3.3 percent drop in Spanish
power company Iberdrola, which traders attributed to
signs that lender Bankia might be looking to sell its
stake in the company.
The FTSEurofirst 300 closed down 0.2 percent at
1,161.39, around levels seen at the start of January. The euro
zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index shed 0.8
percent to 2,615.26.
The consolidation of a seven-month rally has lasted several
weeks now, and is also visible in the most recent data from EPFR
Global showing European stock funds lost fans for a second
straight week with outflows of $38 million.
However, continued loose monetary policy from central banks
was one good reason to keep faith with the asset class, some
"I still remain fairly positive that after this pause
markets will move higher," Philippe Gijsels, head of research at
BNP Paribas Fortis Global Markets, said.
Andrew Milligan, head of global strategy at Standard Life
Investments, said: "I get the feeling that people are more
looking to put money into the market than they are to take
Standard Life Investments has around 163 billion pounds
($253 billion) of assets under management.
Charts also painted a positive picture. Philippe Delabarre,
analyst at Trading Central, targeted 2,666 for the Euro STOXX
50, the Feb. 14 top, then 2,685, target of the recent 'head and
shoulders' trough and the troughs of Jan. 8 and Jan 16.
GFT Markets technical analyst Fawad Razaqzada was bullish on
the index while it holds above 2,600 on a closing basis, though
he sounded a note of caution given resistance at the 2,670 area,
the 50-day moving average.
"A closing break above that area should pave the way for
more gains in the near term, with 2,700 being the first target,
followed by 2,750," he said.
Among gainers on Friday, French luxury group PPR
topped the FTSEurofirst 300 leader board, ahead 7.6 percent,
surging to a level not seen since mid-2001 after unveiling
Overall, the fourth-quarter earnings season in Europe has
been a mixed bag, with 53 percent of companies having beaten or
met expectations, according to Thomson Reuters Starmine data.