European shares stall after four-day rally; Swiss stocks fall again

miércoles 21 de enero de 2015 05:31 GYT

* FTSEurofirst 300 flat, halts sharp 4-day rally

* Italian 'popolari' banks up after govt approves reform

* Poll shows ECB to unveil 600 bln eur QE programme

By Blaise Robinson

PARIS, Jan 21 (Reuters) - European shares paused on Wednesday after a four-day rally driven by expectations the European Central Bank is about to launch quantitative easing had taken them to seven-year highs.

ASML NV outperformed, however, rising 4.6 percent after the world's second-largest maker of semiconductor production equipment posted better-than-expected fourth-quarter results.

Shares in Italy's popolari or cooperative banks also gained, with Banco Popolare, Popolare Milano and Popolare Emilia up 2.1-4.8 percent after the government approved an emergency decree that will force the largest 'popolari' to change their governance rules and become joint stock companies within the next 18 months.

The decree aims to consolidate the banking sector and will overhaul a system that currently gives all shareholders in the banks one vote regardless of the size of their stake.

At 0911 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was flat at 1,422.76 points. The benchmark index, which hit a seven-year high on Tuesday, has surged 5 percent in the past four sessions.   Continuación...