European shares fall

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London - European shares fell on Monday, with pharma group Novo Nordisk down 12 percent after suffering a major regulatory setback.

Shares in the world's biggest insulin maker weighed on the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index after the US Food and Drug Administration asked for additional tests before it would consider approving the firm's new drug..

The stock knocked 1.7 points off the FTSEurofirst 300, which was down 3 points, or 0.3 percent, at 1,158.93 points at 11:34 SA time.

The Euro STOXX 50 was down 0.2 percent at 2,626 points, having fallen 4 percent in the previous two weeks as a corruption scandal threatens political instability in Spain and an election race in Italy became tighter.

Some fund managers and analysts said this was a buying opportunity as the index was likely to extend its gains in the rest of the year, helped by a rotation into riskier assets as the global macroeconomic picture improved.

The Euro STOXX 50 sent a bullish technical signal on Friday as it closed above its 200-week moving average at 2,616 and a top tested twice in 2012 at 2,611.

That showed buyers were still willing to support the market and the trend for the remainder of the year remained positive.

“It should mean that we should have another top on the Euro STOXX 50 in the next couple of weeks,” Valerie Gastaldy, head of Paris-based technical analysis firm Day-By-day, said.

“Maybe it will take another couple of days to really bounce because it has not stabilised and we may tests the level again, but that could be a buying opportunity.”

SHALLOW CORRECTION

Some fund managers said they expected any short-term correction in the Euro STOXX 50 to be shallow as private investors and pension funds, which had largely missed a 34 percent rally in the index in the eight months to January, rotated into equities and out of lower-yielding sovereign bonds.

The MSCI Euro zone index offered prospective returns this year roughly 9 percent higher than Germany's 10-year sovereign bond, Thomson Reuters Datastream data showed.

“The correction should be limited - no more than 5 percent from current levels - because everybody wants to get in,” Didier Duret, chief investment office at ABN-Amro in Geneva, said.

“We may be in a period where the earnings are not very colourful but where we see multiple expansion because the market is reducing the risk premium.”

He estimated the MSCI Europe index, which traded at 12 items its expected earnings for the next 12 months on Monday, to see its valuation multiple expand to 13, with more gains on the cards if the earnings picture improved.

The European earnings season has so far been mixed.

With a quarter of it gone, 40 percent of companies in the STOXX 600 Europe index that have reported have missed consensus estimates, Thomson Reuters Starmine data showed.

Goldman Sachs strategists expected an improved economic picture to support equities over the year, after a period of consolidation over the next three months after the recent sharp rally.

They downgraded the asset class to “neutral” from “overweight”, while making the opposite change for cash.

Fund flows data also suggested investor appetite for European equities has slightly dampened. Europe equity funds recorded outflows of $264 million in the week ending Feb. 6, EPFR Global data showed. - Reuters


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