* European equity markets edge lower after inflation data
* Inflation data comes in above forecasts
* Data could lessen chance of new ECB stimulus
* FTSEurofirst 300 and ESTOXX 50 both down 0.2 pct
By Sudip Kar-Gupta
LONDON, Feb 28 European shares dipped on Friday
as euro zone inflation data came in above expectations, which
investors said could lessen the prospect of new monetary
stimulus measures from the European Central Bank.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index, which had
been in positive territory before the publication of the data,
fell 0.2 percent to 1,342.49 points.
The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index
also declined by 0.2 percent to 3,127.58 points.
Some analysts have been banking on the European Central Bank
loosening its monetary policy further in order to strengthen the
region's fragile economic recovery, which could in turn drive up
European stock markets.
This scenario had been based around the likelihood of a low
reading of February euro zone inflation, but that data on Friday
came in at a higher than expected 0.8 percent.
"There could be some disappointment on the basis that the
ECB could step back from any action that it could have been
considering next week to see how things pan out," said
Hargreaves Lansdown equity analyst Keith Bowman.
ERSTE GROUP SLUMPS
Bowman and other traders also pointed to ongoing signs of
conflict in Ukraine as a further weight on European equities.
On Friday, armed men took control of two airports in the
Crimea region in what Ukraine's government described as an
invasion and occupation by Russian forces, raising tension
between Moscow and the West.
Austrian bank Erste Group slumped by around 8
percent after halving its dividend. It also said it had an
exposure of 435 million euros ($595.15 million) to Ukraine.
"Ukraine is a political risk. As long as the markets are
convinced that Russia is not going to take a hard stance on the
issue, it is something to watch but not a game-changer," said
Philippe Gijsels, head of research at BNP Paribas Fortis Global
Markets in Brussels.