* Pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index down 0.8 pct
* Travel and leisure stocks lead the market lower
* Partners Group bucks the trend after update
* Strong data help FTSEurofirst come off lows (ADVISORY- Reuters plans to replace intra-day European and UK stock market reports with a Live Markets blog on Eikon - see cpurl://apps.cp./cms/?pageId=livemarkets for site in development. See the bottom of the report. Updates prices, adds details)
By Atul Prakash and Danilo Masoni
LONDON/MILAN, March 22 (Reuters) - European shares fell on Tuesday with travel and leisure stocks leading the market lower after attacks at Brussels airport and in the city’s metro system killed at least 21 people.
A suicide bomber blew himself up at Brussels airport killing at least 11 people and a further blast tore through a rush-hour metro train in the capital shortly afterwards, claiming 10 lives, according to public broadcaster VRT.
“Geopolitical risk, including acts of terrorism which directly affect trade or movement, remains a significant risk factor to monitor,” said Lorne Baring, managing director of B Capital Wealth Management in Geneva.
“In a period where there is suboptimal growth both in Europe and globally, combined with equity valuations that are no longer cheap, there exists an environment which is susceptible to shocks that can act as a trigger for falls in asset prices.”
The STOXX Europe 600 Travel and Leisure index fell 2.1 percent, the top sectoral decliner, with shares in easyJet , Ryanair, Accor, TUI and IAG down by 1.8 to 4.0 percent.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index was down 0.8 percent at 1,329.22 points by 1054 GMT, while Belgium’s benchmark share index fell 0.3 percent. Elsewhere in Europe, Germany’s DAX fell 0.4 percent while France’s CAC dropped 0.6 percent.
Investors remained focused on unfolding events in Brussels, although there were some positive data releases that brought some relief for the region’s growth prospects and helped European equity markets come off earlier lows.
German business morale rose in March as the retail sector profited from buoyant consumer sentiment, while euro zone business activity ended the quarter on a higher note.
This suggested extra stimulus from the European Central Bank may already be having a positive effect.
“The just-announced ECB stimulus, while not a game changer for growth, should neutralise some of the downside risks ... But today’s ugly events in Brussels add further uncertainty to the outlook,” said UniCredit economist Edoardo Campanella.
Bucking the trend, Partners Group shares rose 7 percent after the global private markets investment management firm proposed an increased dividend and said its FY revenues increased by 8 percent despite foreign exchange headwinds.
Auto stocks were the top sectoral gainer with a rise of 0.3 percent,
Today’s European research round-up
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Mike Dolan, Markets Editor EMEA. (Editing by Hugh Lawson; Editing by Tom Heneghan)