* FTSEurofirst 300 index closes 1 percent lower
* Index extends losses after report on ECB’s Draghi
* Market under pressure as EU Commission cuts forecasts
* Energy companies fall sharply on weaker oil prices
By Atul Prakash
LONDON, Nov 4 (Reuters) - European shares extended losses in late trading on Tuesday after Reuters reported that central bankers in the euro area planned to challenge European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi over his secretive management style.
Division within the ECB, on whose policymaking council national governors hold a majority, could limit the euro zone central bank’s capacity for bolder policy action to stave off deflation and spur growth in the 18 countries using the euro.
Markets have increasingly come to expect that disappointing economic numbers from Europe will eventually prompt the ECB to launch further stimulus measures to support the economy.
“Any concern that the ECB can act without the full support of the member nations is a substantial negative for Europe as a whole,” said Lorne Baring, managing director at B Capital Wealth Management. “Any lack of support will create a big problem for the region.”
A cut by the European Commission to its growth forecast for the euro zone also pressured stocks, with the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index closing 1 percent lower at 1,326.59 points after hitting an early high of 1,346.49.
The EU executive said the euro zone economy would expand 0.8 percent this year, 1.1 percent next year and by 1.7 percent in 2016 — a level the Commission had said six months ago would be achieved next year.
The delay in the upturn was due to the drag on the economy from France and Italy. Weakness in the currency bloc, which generates a fifth of world economic output, is holding back a broader global revival led by the United States.
“There is still nervousness in the market about the euro zone’s economic outlook,” said Gerhard Schwarz, head of equity strategy at Baader Bank in Munich.
“Certainly another year of sub-par growth into next year is not something that the market likes because investors have been banking on a recovery in corporate earnings and that might not get materialised in this environment.”
Across Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 0.5 percent, Germany’s DAX dropped 0.9 percent, France’s CAC fell 1.5 percent and Italy’s FTSE MIB fell 2.2 percent.
Among sectors, energy shares fell sharply as crude oil slumped about 3 percent to its lowest in more than four years near $82 a barrel after top oil exporter Saudi Arabia cut sales prices to the United States.
The STOXX Europe 600 Oil and Gas index fell 3.8 percent, the biggest one-day percentage fall in one month. Energy companies Royal Dutch Shell, Total, Tullow Oil, Statoil, BG Group and Seadrill fell 1.8 to 8.6 percent.
Strong earnings, however, helped some firms. Securitas surged 9.2 percent after posting a bigger-than-expected rise in third-quarter core profit, while Spain’s Grifols rose 5.2 percent after posting a better-than expected 29.4 percent rise in adjusted net profit for the nine months to September.
“Earnings have been better than expected overall, and this is offsetting the bad macro data seen in Europe lately,” said Alexandre Baradez, chief market analyst at IG France.
Halfway into Europe’s earnings season, 65 percent of companies have managed to meet or beat profit forecasts, while 57 percent met or beat revenue forecasts, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine data.
In absolute terms, profits are up 12.2 percent, while revenues are down 0.7 percent, highlighting the fact that Europe’s earnings rebound has mostly been coming from cost-cutting and lower financing costs.
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 in Paris; Editing by Catherine Evans)