* European equities fall as bond yields rise
* Bond jitters weigh on utilities stocks
* Greek shares edge back after Wednesday’s rise
* Syngenta rises on BASF bid interest
* Europe bourses in 2015: link.reuters.com/pap87v
* Asset performance in 2015: link.reuters.com/gap87v
By Sudip Kar-Gupta
LONDON, June 4 (Reuters) - European shares lost ground on Thursday as a pick-up in bond yields weighed on utility stocks, whose large levels of debt make them particularly sensitive to credit market jitters.
Greece’s benchmark ATG equity index also gave up some ground, declining 2.8 percent after a 4.1 percent rise the day before, as talks over the country’s debt problems continued.
German 10-year Bund yields rose to 2015 highs, extending a rise from Wednesday when European Central bank President Mario Draghi said there was no reason to adjust monetary policy despite recent volatility in the credit market.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index fell 0.9 percent. Germany’s DAX weakened by around 1 percent, leaving the DAX nearly 10 percent below record highs set in early April.
“The pick-up in the bond yields is putting pressure on the European stock markets,” said Mirabaud Securities’ senior equity sales trader John Plassard.
Utility stocks were among the worst performers on the FTSEurofirst: the STOXX Europe 600 Utilities Index weakening by 1.5 percent.
Spain’s Gas Natural fell 1.6 percent, rival Red Electrica declined by 2.1 percent. Red Electrica was also hit by a UBS downgrade.
An increase in bond yields not only increases borrowing costs for companies, can also make dividend yields - typically higher than the market average at ultilities - look less attractive.
Swiss agrochemicals group Syngenta outperformed to rise 1.8 percent after Reuters reported that German company BASF was considering a bid.
Corporate takeover activity, as evidenced in the possible bid battle for Syngenta, has provided a cushion for European stock markets this year, in spite of worries over Greece.
Record low interest rates and economic stimulus measures from the ECB have also propped up stock markets, with the FTSEurofirst 300 still up around 15 percent since the start of 2015 while the DAX is up by a similar amount.
Nevertheless, some traders were adopting a cautious attitude while the Greek debt talks dragged on.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras emerged from late-night talks with senior EU officials in Brussels saying a deal with creditors was “within sight”, but differences remain.
“Clearly there remains some way to go in the talks so I refuse to get too optimistic. The messages coming from the talks are extremely mixed and even the creditors can’t agree on a consistent stance,” said OANDA senior market analyst Craig Erlam.
Today’s European research round-up