London - European stocks fell in a thin market on Monday, pulling back from last week's rally and weighed down by German utility E.ON after it traded without rights to its latest dividend.
Losses were limited as equity markets continued to take heart from stimulus measures from central banks.
The euro zone's blue chip Euro STOXX 50 index closed 0.5 percent lower at 2,750.52 points, pausing after the previous week's gains when it surged to a near-two year peak of 2,764.17 on strong US monthly jobs data and an interest rate cut from the European Central Bank.
The move lower occurred in subdued volumes of just 42 percent of the average 90-day daily average, with the UK, Europe's biggest market, shut for a holiday.
“It's been very quiet and there's been a natural pullback from these highs set last session,” Pete Ward, sales trader at IG Index, said, adding that client sentiment was 77 percent “short” on the German DAX, indicating that IG clients expected weakness in the near term.
The DAX closed down 0.1 percent, just 0.5 percent off the all-time record high of 8,151.570, with E.ON losing 7.9 percent. It traded without entitlement to its dividend, making the STOXX Europe 600 Utilities index the worst-hit sector.
“The majority think there's going to be some sort of pullback (on the DAX) given that we're at record highs and economic data isn't great. However, while they continue to print money, markets will keep on ploughing upward,” added Ward.
Surveys confirmed Germany is now suffering a contraction in business activity that has long dogged France, Italy and Spain.
But investors shrugged off the news, and losses eased slightly when European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said the ECB was watching data and was ready to act again.
Upbeat earnings reports as well as faith in easy monetary policy helped cap losses in European stock markets.
German industrial gases producer Linde rose 2.8 percent, the top gainer on the DAX, after posting a better-than-expected 12.6 percent gain in quarterly operating profit, boosted by last year's acquisition of US based Lincare.
The report was accompanied by a bullish outlook, echoing recent upbeat comments by rivals Air Liquide and US firm Praxair.
The slim trade suggested a lack of momentum behind the pullback and, from a technical perspective, there was still a prospect of further gains.
“The index's next major resistance is around 3,000 points, so there's plenty of room on the upside. There's just no reason to sell at this point,” said Valerie Gastaldy, head of Paris-based technical analysis firm Day By Day. - Reuters