* FTSEurofirst 300 down 0.6 pct after bullish Fed
* Vallourec warns of 1-1.2 bln euro impairment, shares fall 6 pct
* Raiffeisen recovers after it reassures on capital structure
By Blaise Robinson
PARIS, Jan 29 (Reuters) - European stocks fell in early trading on Thursday after the U.S. Federal Reserve took an upbeat view on the U.S. economy and signalled that it remains firmly on track to raise interest rates this year.
Vallourec featured among the top losers, falling 6 percent after the steel pipes maker warned of an impairment charge of 1.0-1.2 billion euros on the value of its assets, blaming turmoil in the oil market.
“It will translate into a big net loss in 2014 and will deteriorate Vallourec’s gearing. Also, Vallourec has not impaired anything in the U.S., whereas market conditions (there) are deteriorating rapidly as well,” a Paris-based trader said.
Royal Dutch Shell fell 4.2 percent after the oil major said it will cut spending by $15 billion over the next three years.
Bucking the trend, shares in Austrian lender Raiffeisen Bank International gained 11 percent, bouncing from recent sharp losses, after the bank said it is planning to extend its capital buffer with a reduction of risk-weighted assets (RWA) of at least 20 per cent, which will also affect its Russian business.
At 0852 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was down 0.6 percent at 1,465.61 points.
The Fed said the U.S. economy was expanding “at a solid pace” with strong job gains. It repeated it would be “patient” in deciding when to raise benchmark borrowing costs from zero, though it also acknowledged a decline in certain inflation measures.
The statement took investors by surprise, sparking a sell-off on Wall Street with The Dow Jones industrial average falling 1.1 percent, the S&P 500 dropping 1.4 percent and the Nasdaq Composite losing 0.9 percent.
“The bullish tone by the Fed on the economy caught investors off-guard,” said John Plassard, senior equity sales trader at Mirabaud Securities in Geneva.
“Meanwhile, investors are fretting about Greece again, and it could go on for a while. What happened yesterday, with Athens’s bourse losing 9 percent, is spooking investors. That said, it’s too early to draw conclusions about the new government.”
Around Europe, UK’s FTSE 100 index was down 0.9 percent, Germany’s DAX index down 0.7 percent, and France’s CAC 40 down 0.6 percent.
Greek banking shares rebounded on Thursday to recover some ground after having fallen to record lows in the previous session. The Athens Stock Exchange FTSE Banks Index, which had slumped 27.7 percent on Wednesday, rose 7.9 percent, with National Bank of Greece up 6.7 percent while Alpha Bank was up 11.8 percent.
Athens’ broader ATG benchmark equity index was up 1 percent, clawing back some ground after falling 9.2 percent on Wednesday.
Greek financial markets had been hit on Wednesday after leftist Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras threw down an open challenge to international creditors by halting privatisation plans agreed under the country’s bailout deal.
Today’s European research round-up
Editing by Crispian Balmer