* FTSEurofirst 300 down 0.1 pct, Euro STOXX 50 down 0.2 pct
* Wait-and-see mode ahead of ECB meeting
* New ECB measures seen as priced in already
* Holcim, Lafarge rally on private-equity bid report
(Updates prices, adds analyst comment)
By Lionel Laurent and Blaise Robinson
LONDON/PARIS, June 4 European shares inched down
on Wednesday after data confirmed a slowdown in the euro zone's
economic recovery in the first quarter, with investors awaiting
fresh action by the European Central Bank to spur growth.
The 18-nation bloc's economy expanded by just 0.2 percent in
the three months to March, statistics office Eurostat said,
cementing investor expectations for the ECB to trim its
refinancing rate, send its deposit rate into negative territory
and launch a cheap-lending initiative targeted at businesses.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares
was down 0.1 percent at 1,372.67 points as of 1007 GMT, hovering
below a 6-1/2-year high hit on Monday.
"No-one's really eager to make any aggressive moves ahead of
tomorrow," said CMC Markets analyst Jasper Lawler.
"It seems unlikely the ECB would disappoint in terms of
action...(But) the real crunch is going to be what the ECB
guides for the next meeting and beyond."
The market's pause for breath saw national benchmark indexes
in France, Britain, Italy and Spain fall between 0.1 and 0.4
percent, while Germany's DAX index stayed flat.
Euro zone peripheral markets have been rallying on hopes of
further measures from the ECB, with Milan's FTSE MIB index
up 14 percent for the year-to-date and Madrid's IBEX
up 9 percent.
Shares of Spanish oil-and-gas company Repsol fell
3.6 percent, one of the worst performers on the FTSEurofirst
300, after Mexico's Pemex sold the bulk of its stake
in Repsol for 2.09 billion euros ($2.85 billion).
Construction companies Holcim and Lafarge
rallied more than 2.7 percent after a report said that
private-equity companies were considering bids for some assets
as part of the companies' planned merger.
Hopes for ECB intervention have supported share prices in
recent months, often leading to a bullish investor response to
weak data, although some traders said there was a growing risk
of a pullback after the central bank's meeting on Thursday.
"There's a real danger the ECB has created a rod for its own
back (with expectations)," said Nick Beecroft, analyst at Saxo
"The risk is that if some of the expected measures are
announced but not all of them, that the market strengthens the
euro and tries to force the ECB into more action."
Shares in Tesco fell 1.5 percent after Britain's
biggest retailer posted its worst quarterly UK sales drop in 40
years on Wednesday, ratcheting up the pressure on boss Phil
Clarke to show his turnaround plan can counter the challenges of
the grocery industry.
Europe bourses in 2014: link.reuters.com/pap87v
Asset performance in 2014: link.reuters.com/gap87v
Today's European research round-up
($1 = 0.7342 Euros)
(Editing by Hugh Lawson and Pravin Char)