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* Mining stocks fall on back of weaker metals prices
* JP Morgan cuts euro zone equities to “neutral”
* Bayer up on possible Monsanto interest for Bayer unit
LONDON, March 21 (Reuters) - European shares fell on Monday, as a decline in the share prices of major mining stocks and in French supermarket operator Casino weighed on the region’s stock markets.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index and the euro zone’s blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index were both down by 0.2 percent.
Mining and steel stocks such as ArcelorMittal and Glencore fell as metals prices weakened and shares in Casino also declined after Standard & Poor’s cut its rating on the company.
A fall in oil prices also weighed on the shares of energy companies, while Tullow Oil was further impacted by a downgrade from investment bank Jefferies.
However, Bayer’s shares rose 2 percent after people familiar with the matter told Reuters that Monsanto , the world’s largest seed producer, had approached Bayer to express interest in its crop science unit, including a potential acquisition worth more than $30 billion.
Nevertheless, some strategists remained cautious on the outlook for European stocks.
JP Morgan Cazenove downgraded euro zone equities to “neutral” from “overweight”, citing headwinds on the region’s stock markets from a weakening in the U.S dollar.
“We reiterate our recent downgrade of Japan, and also downgrade Eurozone, from overweight to neutral. The region is still a crowded ‘long’, valuations are uninspiring, Euro is a headwind and ECB (European Central Bank) action is behind us,” said JP Morgan strategist Mislav Matejka.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index remains down by around 7 percent since the start of 2016.
Today’s European research round-up
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Mike Dolan, Markets Editor EMEA.