* FTSEurofirst 300 down 0.5 pct, at lowest since late August
* Allianz slips as Pimco suffers massive outflows
* Traders await details of ECB’s asset-buying plan
By Blaise Robinson
PARIS, Oct 2 (Reuters) - European shares fell in early trading on Thursday, with a benchmark index hitting a five-week low as soft global manufacturing data prompted investors to cut equity holdings worldwide.
Shares in Allianz fell 0.4 percent, adding to recent sharp losses, after the firm’s asset management unit Pimco suffered a record $23.5 billion of withdrawals from its flagship Pimco Total Return Fund in September. Its largest daily outflow occurred on the day of Bill Gross’s surprise resignation from the firm.
At 0752 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was down 0.5 percent at 1,360.93 points, after losing 0.9 percent on Wednesday.
The index has lost 3.6 percent over the past two weeks, dragged down by a flurry of sales and profit warnings as well as by growing concerns over the timing of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s expected interest rate hike next year.
“All eyes are on the S&P 500 and whether or not it’s entering a bearish trend. If we get a ‘sell’ signal on the index, then we’re set for a serious correction, but it’s too early to say if this is what’s going to happen,” Aurel BGC chartist Gerard Sagnier said.
Traders awaited details on the European Central Bank’s new asset-buying plan, due later on Thursday, which the ECB hopes will prop up inflation and revive the euro zone economy.
The ECB plans to buy asset-backed securities (ABS) - packages of reparcelled loans - with a view to spurring the market for such credit and supporting lending to the small- and mid-sized firms that form the backbone of the euro zone economy.
A Reuters poll on Monday showed money market traders on average expect the ECB to buy a total of 200 billion euros of ABS and covered bonds over a year.
Around Europe, both UK’s FTSE 100 index and Germany’s DAX index were down 0.4 percent, while France’s CAC 40 was down 0.3 percent.
The retreat was sharper in southern Europe, with Spain’s IBEX down 0.5 percent, Italy’s MIB down 0.6 percent and Portugal’s PSI 20 down 1.3 percent.
Shares in Fiat-Chrysler bucked the trend, rising 1.5 percent. The group reiterated on Thursday that a tax agreement granted by Luxembourg to one of its subsidiaries was legitimate and said the potential financial impact of a European Commission probe into the matter would not be significant.
Europe bourses in 2014: link.reuters.com/pap87v
Asset performance in 2014: link.reuters.com/gap87v
Today’s European research round-up
Editing by Gareth Jones