* FTSEurofirst 300 down 0.4 pct, Euro STOXX 50 down 0.4 pct
* Stocks with big exposure to Russia under renewed pressure
* Low expectations for U.S. monthly jobs data
* Rise in DAX puts as German index seen most vulnerable
* U.S. investors continue to pour money into Europe -Lipper
By Blaise Robinson
PARIS, March 7 (Reuters) - European shares slipped in early trade on Friday as investors trod a cautious path in case of another escalation in tensions between Russia and Ukraine over the weekend.
Shares of companies most exposed to Russia such as Finnish tyre maker Nokian Renkaat, Danish brewer Carlsberg and Austrian lender Raiffeisen Bank International were among the biggest losers.
Investors also avoided taking fresh bets ahead of U.S. jobs data due later in the day that will provide insight on the state of the world’s biggest economy and could influence the Federal Reserve’s policy outlook.
At 1050 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was down 0.4 percent at 1,338.54 points. After taking a hit on Monday, the index reversed most of the sell-off that was sparked by an escalation in tensions between Ukraine and Russia, but failed to resume its recovery rally on Friday.
“Stocks have been yo-yoing this week, and indexes are back to near multi-year high levels, so it’s tempting to cash in a bit of profits in case things flare up again in Ukraine during the weekend,” Saxo Bank trader Andrea Tueni said.
After diplomatic efforts to cool the crisis in Ukraine calmed markets over the past few days, tensions were rising again, with U.S. President Barack Obama unveiling sanctions against Russia, ordering visa bans and asset freezes against so far unidentified persons deemed responsible for threatening Ukraine’s sovereignty.
Russian President Vladimir Putin rebuffed the warning from Obama on Friday, saying that Russia could not ignore calls for help from Russian speakers in Ukraine.
European blue-chips with big exposure to Russia and Ukraine were under renewed pressure, with Nokian Renkaat down 1.8 percent, Raiffeisen Bank International shedding 2 percent and Carlsberg losing 1.2 percent. The three firms derive 26 percent, 22 percent and 17 percent respectively of their revenues from Russia, according to data from MSCI.
Around Europe, UK’s FTSE 100 index was down 0.2 percent, France’s CAC 40 down 0.4 percent and Germany’s DAX index - seen the most vulnerable to tensions in Ukraine and Russia - dropping 0.9 percent.
BEARISH DAX ‘PUTS’ IN DEMAND
Investors have recently piled into the options market for protection against any future fall in the DAX, with data from Eurex showing a rise in the ratio between “put” options betting on a fall in the DAX and “call” options betting on a rise.
The put/call ratio on DAX options due to mature in March jumped to 3.13 at the start of March from 1.47 in early February
Overall, trading volumes on the stock market were thin on Friday morning as investors were reluctant to make fresh bets ahead of U.S. monthly jobs data. Non-farm payrolls are forecast to have risen by 149,000 in February, up from the weather-depressed gains of 113,000 in January.
Analysts said expectations may have been lowered by the soft ADP private-sector jobs report and ISM services sector survey released earlier this week.
“Although estimates have been revised down, I doubt the number will be way above given the rough patch the U.S. economy is going through,” said Ion-Marc Valahu, fund manager at Geneva-based firm Clairinvest.
“No matter which way the number comes out, equity markets are very stretched and ‘overbought’ in the short term since the rally started on Feb 5th. I‘m expecting that the markets will stay flat or consolidate in the short term before making another run for new highs later into the second quarter.”
Despite Monday’s selloff in stocks triggered by the escalation in the Ukraine crisis, U.S. investors’ appetite for European stocks remained brisk.
A poll by Thomson Reuters Lipper of 103 U.S.-based funds invested in European equities, which include exchange-traded funds’ (ETFs) holdings, shows the funds added $468 million into European equities in the seven-day period to March 5th. That marked a 36th straight week of net inflows and a sharp contrast with further big outflows from emerging markets funds.
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