* FTSEurofirst 300 slips 0.1 pct to 1,375.93 points
* Bid target AstraZeneca falls; CEO says "back to normal"
* Rival healthcare stocks also fall
* Traders await ECB decision on Thursday
By Sudip Kar-Gupta
LONDON, Sept 2 A fall in major healthcare
stocks, after drugmaker AstraZeneca tried to play down
speculation about a new bid from Pfizer, pegged back
European stock markets on Tuesday.
Equity investors were also cautious pending any clues on
policy from the European Central Bank on Thursday.
Few expect any major steps, but most expect ECB policy to
loosen eventually, as persistent disinflation and conflict in
Ukraine weigh on the euro zone's economy.
Some traders believed that stock markets had already made
their move higher on anticipation of new ECB measures, and
therefore had little room to gain any more ground.
"We wouldn't chase stocks at these levels," said HED Capital
head Richard Edwards.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index, which has
risen nearly 7 percent from its mid-August low, closed down 0.1
percent at 1,375.93 points.
A 0.8 percent fall at AstraZeneca weighed on the index. It
also contributed to a retreat in the shares of rivals such as
Roche and Novartis, while the STOXX Europe
600 Healthcare index weakened 0.2 percent.
AstraZeneca's shares fell after the company's chief
executive told Reuters in an interview that everything was "back
to normal", in spite of speculation that Pfizer would make a new
bid for the British company.
DRAGHI TO THE RESCUE?
Dovish comments last month by ECB President Mario Draghi
caused European stock markets to rally, with his remarks leading
to bets that the ECB is preparing to pump more liquidity into
the economy by buying government or corporate bonds.
Sources at the central bank told Reuters last week that new
action on Thursday was unlikely but not impossible, and that the
barrier to such QE (quantitative easing) was still "very high".
Aurel BGC analyst Gerard Sagnier thought European stock
markets could soon rise back to peak levels set earlier in June,
when Germany's DAX hit a record high of 10,050.98
points. The DAX rose 0.3 percent to 9,507.02 points on Tuesday.
Others were more cautious.
"It could be a case of 'buy the rumour, sell on the fact'.
The market has had a good rally off the lows, but it has got
room to come back a little bit. Most people are waiting to see
what Draghi says before committing new money to the market,"
said McLaren Securities' managing director Terry Torrison.
Europe bourses in 2014: link.reuters.com/pap87v
Asset performance in 2014: link.reuters.com/gap87v
Today's European research round-up
(Additional reporting by Blaise Robinson and Alexandre
Boksenbaum-Granier; Editing by Larry King, Ruth Pitchford)