* FTSEurofirst 300 edges lower ahead of ECB meeting
* Legrand falls after cautious outlook
* HeidelbergCement up after better-than-expected profits
By Sudip Kar-Gupta
LONDON, Nov 6 (Reuters) - European shares fell on Thursday, with switch maker Legrand underperforming, as investors’ caution that a European Central Bank (ECB) meeting might not yield new monetary easing measures weighed on markets.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index, which had risen 1.7 percent on Wednesday, slipped back to fall 0.3 percent to 1,344.26 points.
Germany’s DAX, which had hit a record high of 10,050.98 points in June, fell 0.1 percent to 9,302.81 points while France’s CAC retreated 0.3 percent.
French group Legrand slid 5 percent after Legrand said its full-year organic sales growth and margin targets had become tough to reach amid a weakening macroeconomic environment.
Swiss staffing company Adecco also fell 3.4 percent after it said that the pace of revenue growth had slowed down, although German cement maker HeidelbergCement rose 5.1 percent after it posted a better-than-expected rise in core profits.
The ECB is set to stick to the policy path laid out over the summer when it meets on Thursday, waiting for its stimulus to unfold before considering further steps, and keeping interest rates at record lows.
More drastic measures in the form of outright purchases of sovereign bonds - as deployed by other major central banks to boost their economies - still remain distant in the euro zone, mainly due to political hurdles, especially in Germany.
The November policy meeting also takes place against a backdrop of meager growth prospects for the euro zone and mounting discomfort among Governing Council members over ECB President Mario Draghi’s leadership style.
Jean Maigrot, portfolio manager at NewSmith Asset Management, did not expect any significant new developments from the ECB on Thursday.
“I would be surprised if they do anything meaningful, other than make more soothing noises at best. Under this scenario, if there’s a post-ECB rally, it will be short-lived,” said Maigrot.
Maigrot said he had “short” positions betting on future share price falls on a number of European stocks, including Spanish banks BBVA and Santander, and German carmaker BMW.
Weak economic data over the last few months have knocked back European stock markets from peak levels reached earlier in the year.
Further signs of frailty in the euro zone’s economic bloc emerged on Thursday as data showed that German industrial orders rose by just 0.8 percent in September.
Maigrot said he thought there was still a risk of “above 50 percent” that the euro zone would break up at some point in the future, and that the world’s top central banks needed to co-ordinate and print more money in order to get the global economy out of a deflationary spiral.
Nevertheless, traders said European equity markets would be propped up by the fact that equities still offer better returns than government bonds and cash, where returns have been hit by record low interest rates set by world central banks.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index remains up by around 2 percent since the start of 2014.
“My head says I should be bearish, but the weight of money is still coming into the market. There is still appetite for equities,” said Terry Torrison, managing director at Monaco-based McLaren Securities.
Europe bourses in 2014: link.reuters.com/pap87v
Asset performance in 2014: link.reuters.com/gap87v
Today’s European research round-up (Editing by Tom Heneghan)