* FTSEurofirst 300 down 0.3 percent
* Trade volatile as futures and options expire
* Investors await US manufacturing, sentiment data
* Royal Dutch Shell falls after JP Morgan downgrade
* France's Bouygues Telecom rallies on 4G switch
By David Brett
LONDON, March 15 European shares edged lower on
Friday in volatile trade as quarterly options expired, with
investors awaiting more U.S. data, which has been the compass
for markets in recent sessions.
By 1122 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 was down 4.13
points, or 0.3 percent at 1,203.70, but the index was set to
post a fifth consecutive weekly gain.
"Equities have been offered lower after another strong
weekly performance as the options expiry gives way to some
intraday volatility," Matt Basi, sales trader at CMC Markets,
Share prices were choppy as quarterly and monthly futures
and options expire, which means some investors will rebalance
Investors also braced for potentially more volatility as
Italy's parliament reconvened almost three weeks after an
inconclusive election, with parties still deadlocked over how to
form a government in the euro zone's third-largest economy.
A recent string of strong U.S. economic data, however,
including a forecast-beating payrolls report last week, has
pushed European share markets to new multi-year highs this week.
"Traders will be focusing on data due from the States this
afternoon before deciding whether to claim back the early losses
and push on again into the close," Basi said.
Recent data has raised expectations that a U.S.
manufacturing report on Friday will also come in north of
economists' estimates, helping sustain the share rally.
"U.S. data will continue to reveal improvement, leaving the
positive tone to markets underpinned," Credit Agricole said in a
It expected March's Empire manufacturing survey and
University of Michigan confidence index, due out at 1230 GMT and
1355 GMT respectively, to beat consensus expectations by 1 point
and 0.5 point, respectively, coming in at 11 and 78.5, from
previous readings of 10.04 and 77.6.
ROYAL DUTCH SLIDES
Oil heavyweight Royal Dutch Shell was one of the
biggest drags on the market, falling 1.7 percent after JP Morgan
cuts its recommendation on the stock to "underweight",
questioning the company's growth, potential capital requirements
and implications for near-term cash returns.
French entertainment-to-telecoms conglomerate Vivendi
dropped 3.7 percent after DirecTV, the largest
U.S. satellite television provider, ended its pursuit of
Swiss luxury chocolate maker Lindt & Spruengli and
budget fashion retailer Hennes & Mauritz shed 2.1
percent and 0.2 percent, respectively, after results.
German carmaker Volkswagen slipped 2.5 percent to
152.00 euros on talk Deutsche Bank was placing VW
preference shares in a price range of 156.25-160.25
euros, two traders told Reuters on Friday.
Among top gainers, France's Bouygues Telecom rose
4.4 percent after wining permission to re-use mobile spectrum
deployed for voice calls for fourth-generation mobile data
services as of Oct. 1, raising pressure on its competitors.
Broker upgrades pushed British Airways owner International
Airlines and temporary power provider Aggreko
3.2 percent and 1.3 percent higher respectively, while chip
designer ARM Holdings climbed 2.7 percent after broker
Jefferies upgraded the company to "buy" from "hold".