6 de noviembre de 2014 / 12:12 / hace 3 años

European shares dip ahead of ECB meeting

* FTSEurofirst 300 down 0.2 pct, remains in recent range

* Credit Agricole CEO blames France’s ‘absence of clear vision’

* ECB seen waiting for stimulus to kick in

By Blaise Robinson and Sudip Kar-Gupta

PARIS/LONDON, Nov 6 (Reuters) - European shares inched lower on Thursday as investors were kept on edge by concern that the European Central Bank’s policy meeting might not yield new monetary easing.

Shares in Credit Agricole featured among the top losers, down 4.3 percent after the French lender posted a fall in revenues at home, blaming French government policy.

“The absence of a clear vision and lack of coherence in economic policies is weighing on confidence and therefore investment and economic activity,” Credit Agricole CEO Jean-Paul Chifflet told reporters on a conference call.

Shares in rival Societe Generale fell 0.9 percent after the bank posted earnings, with traders citing disappointing figures in French retail lending.

By 1153 GMT the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was down 0.2 percent at 1,346.64 points.

Electrical gearmaker Legrand slid 4.6 percent after reporting that sales growth and margin targets had become tough to reach in the weakening macroeconomic environment.

Swiss staffing company Adecco also fell, down 3.4 percent after warning that the pace of revenue growth had slowed, while German cement maker HeidelbergCement bucked the trend with a 5.1 percent uplift after posting a better than expected rise in core profit.

Investors’ focus, however, was mainly on the European Central Bank on Thursday, with the ECB set to stick to the policy path laid out over the summer, waiting for its stimulus to unfold before considering further steps and keeping interest rates at record lows.

“The surge in volatility in October was triggered by a confusing message from (ECB President Mario) Draghi,” said Gregory Raccah, head of quantitative strategies at YCAP Asset Management in Paris.

“This time, it’s very hard to predict the outcome of the meeting and the tone in the press conference, and investors are quite anxious.”

POLITICAL HURDLES

More drastic measures in the form of outright purchases of sovereign bonds - as deployed by other central banks to boost their economies - still remain distant in the euro zone, mainly because of political hurdles, especially in Germany.

The November policy meeting also takes place against a backdrop of meagre growth prospects for the euro zone and mounting discomfort among Governing Council members over Draghi’s leadership style.

Jean Maigrot, portfolio manager at NewSmith Asset Management, does not expect any significant new developments from the ECB on Thursday.

“I would be surprised if they do anything meaningful, other than make more soothing noises at best. Under this scenario, if there’s a post-ECB rally, it will be short-lived,” Maigrot said.

The fund manager said he had “short” positions betting on future share price falls on a number of European stocks, including German carmaker BMW and Spanish banks BBVA and Santander.

Weak economic data over the past few months have knocked back European stock markets from peak levels reached earlier in the year. Further signs of frailty in the euro zone’s economic bloc emerged on Thursday as data showed that German industrial orders rose by only 0.8 percent in September.

Nevertheless, traders said that European equity markets would be propped up by the fact that equities still offer better returns than government bonds and cash, where returns have been hit by record low interest rates set by central banks.

“My head says I should be bearish, but the weight of money is still coming into the market. There is still appetite for equities,” said Terry Torrison, managing director at Monaco-based McLaren Securities.

Europe bourses in 2014: link.reuters.com/pap87v

Asset performance in 2014: link.reuters.com/gap87v

Today’s European research round-up

Editing by David Goodman

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