* FTSEurofirst index falls 0.3 pct
* Mining, oil shares hurt by weaker commodity prices
* Thomas Cook slumps after update, travel stocks off lows
* Banks lead gains as US rate increase looks more likely
By Danilo Masoni and Atul Prakash
MILAN/LONDON, May 19 (Reuters) - European shares fell on Thursday as weaker oil and metals prices put pressure on commodities stocks and concern mounted that U.S. interest rates would be raised soon.
However, bank stocks rose, buoyed by the prospect of rising U.S. rates. Minutes from the Federal Reserve’s April meeting showed most of its policymakers thought a June increase would be appropriate if the U.S. economy continued to improve .
”This more than expected hawkish tone from the minutes is sending European shares lower,“ said Stephane Ekolo, chief European strategist at Market Securities, except for ”the banking sector, a clear winner in case the Fed start raising rates sooner than what the market anticipated.
Germany’s Deutsche Bank rose 3.7 percent. A trader said Deutsche Bank would be one of the biggest beneficiaries among European banks if the Fed raises rates, thanks to its U.S. business.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index was down 0.3 percent by 1146. The basic resources sub-index fell 2.7 percent, making it the worst-performing sector. The energy sub-index dropped 1.9 percent.
Copper extended losses on Thursday, weighed down by a stronger dollar, the potential for a U.S. rate increase and worries about lacklustre demand. The stronger dollar also put pressure on crude oil prices .
Travel and leisure stocks fell 0.2 percent, managing to climb back from earlier lows reached after an Egyptair flight carrying 66 passengers and crew disappeared on a flight from Paris to Cairo .
Shares in British holiday company Thomas Cook slumped 17 percent, reaching their lowest since March 2013, after it said tourists were avoiding Turkey, its second-most popular destination last year.
Accor, TUI and InterContinental Hotels fell 0.8 to 2.7 percent.
Among airline stocks, Aeroports De Paris fell 2.5 percent. Airbus, Air France KLM and British Airways owner IAG were trading between a rise of 0.8 percent and a fall of 0.2 percent.
“In spite of negative news from the Egypt ... the travel and leisure sector seems somewhat barely affected,” Ekolo said.
Today’s European research round-up
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Mike Dolan, Markets Editor EMEA. (Additional reporting by Hakan Ersen in Frankfurt; Editing by Larry King)