* FTSEurofirst down 0.3 pct, ESTOXX50 falls 0.1 pct
* Credit Suisse falls on U.S. Senate inquiry
* Jeronimo Martins down as brokers cut targets after Q4
* FTSEurofirst still near highest level since May 2008
By Sudip Kar-Gupta
LONDON, Feb 26 A drop in the shares of Swiss
banks Credit Suisse and UBS weighed on
European equities on Wednesday, stalling the advance of a major
regional index to near 6-year highs.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index was down by
0.3 percent at 1,347.59 points in mid-session trading,
retreating after a strong run in February which had taken it
close to its highest level since May 2008.
The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index
also slipped 0.1 percent to 3,153.89 points.
Credit Suisse fell 2.1 percent while rival UBS weakened by 1
percent, with both companies taking the most points off the
FTSEurofirst 300 index, after fresh signs of pressure on the
Swiss banking industry from U.S authorities.
The pan-European STOXX Europe 600 Bank Index also
declined by 0.4 percent.
A U.S. Senate subcommittee on Tuesday alleged new misdeeds
by Credit Suisse and accused the U.S. Justice Department of
dragging its feet.
Credit Suisse officials are expected to stress that only a
small group of Swiss-based private bankers had helped clients
evade taxes and that it was not a widespread practice, according
to a person familiar with the bank's thinking.
The Justice Department is probing 14 Swiss banks five years
after UBS, Switzerland's largest, admitted to helping U.S.
taxpayers hide money from tax officials, and agreed to provide
"For Credit Suisse, it's just one more problem they have to
deal with," said Ion-Marc Valahu, fund manager at Geneva-based
While Swiss banks have come under pressure in the United
States, many fund managers are betting on Italian and Spanish
banks outperforming as their countries' economies slowly
"The Italian and Spanish markets should be supported by a
rebound in their banking sector," said Jerome Schupp, head of
research and analysis at Swiss bank SYZ.
JERONIMO MARTINS SLUMPS
The FTSEurofirst 300 index rose 16 percent in 2013 to record
its best annual gain since 2009.
The index has risen around 2 percent since the start of
2014, and rebounded some 6 percent in February after a fall at
the start of the year caused by concerns over a downturn in
Italy's FTSE MIB and Spain's IBEX equity
indexes slightly outperformed on Wednesday, rising between
0.1-0.2 percent to beat losses elsewhere on Germany's DAX
and France's CAC.
However, the main PSI-20 equity index of Portugal -
another vulnerable European economy labelled "peripheral" along
with Italy and Spain - fell 0.8 percent as leading Portuguese
retailer Jeronimo Martins slid 5.3 percent in heavy
Jeronimo Martins posted fourth quarter net profit slightly
below the average market forecast late on Tuesday.
Barclays and JP Morgan cut their price targets on Jeronimo
Martins on Wednesday, while Espirito Santo analyst Filipe Rosa
highlighted weakness in the company's key Polish market.
Europe bourses in 2014:
Asset performance in 2014:
Today's European research round-up