* FTSEurofirst 300 closes down 0.4 pct at 1,358.31 points
* DAX falls after weak ZEW data
* BES slumps 14.6 pct, weighs on Lisbon market
* Tendency to buy on dips continues - Reyl CIO
By Sudip Kar-Gupta
LONDON, July 15 (Reuters) - European stocks fell on Tuesday as declining investor morale hit Germany’s benchmark DAX equity index and worries over Portugal’s Banco Espirito Santo weakened the Lisbon market.
The declines on the DAX and Lisbon’s PSI-20 equity index contributed to a retreat by the region’s stock markets on Tuesday from the multi-year highs they reached in late June.
The DAX dropped 0.7 percent to 9,719.41 points, down from its record high of 10,050.98 points in late June. The ZEW survey on Tuesday showed that German analyst and investor morale dropped in July for a seventh straight month, to its lowest level since December 2012.
The Lisbon stock market was also hit by a slide in the share prices of Banco Espirito Santo and Portugal Telecom. BES slumped 14.6 while the PSI-20 index closed down 1.1 percent.
Portugal Telecom fell after reports that Rioforte, a holding company of Portugal’s Espirito Santo family, is preparing to file for protection from its creditors.
That came hours before Rioforte was due to repay over $1 billion in debt to Portugal Telecom. Rioforte also owns a 49 percent stake in the company that is the largest shareholder in BES. Rioforte declined to comment.
Francois Savary, chief investment officer at Swiss bank Reyl, said that while he did not see any bigger, systemic problems from the situation at BES, it nevertheless highlighted the fragile nature of southern European economies such as Portugal, Spain and Italy.
“BES is not systemic but Italy, Spain and Portugal remain countries with economic problems,” he said.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index fell 0.4 percent to 1,358.31 points, while the euro zone’s blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index closed 1 percent lower at 3,153.75 points.
Savary expected the Euro STOXX to be stuck in a range from 3,050-3,250 points in the near-term, but said he would look to buy equities when the market fell, on expectations of a stock market rally later in 2014.
Many investors remain optimistic about European equities for the longer term, considering the steps taken by the European Central Bank to stimulate the region’s economy. The ECB cut interest rates to a record low last month.
“I believe the mentality is still to buy the dip,” said Savary.
Darren Courtney-Cook, head of trading at Central Markets Investment Management, said he would look to “short” the DAX at the 9,750-point level - or bet on future falls - but remained optimistic on German stocks on a longer-term perspective.
“I’d still be bullish, even if the DAX fell to 9,400 points,” said Courtney-Cook.
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 Francesco Canepa; Editing by Catherine Evans)