* FTSEurofirst 300 down 1.4 pct, Italy’s MIB down 2.8 pct
* Lack of details on QE sparks bout of profit taking
* Volatility index shows no rise in risk aversion
By Blaise Robinson
PARIS, Dec 4 (Reuters) - European shares sank on Thursday after the European Central Bank stuck to its line that it will decide early next year whether further measures are needed to boost the euro zone economy, sparking a bout of profit-taking.
Hopes that the central bank would embark on a U.S.-style government bond-buying scheme have been fuelling a strong rally in European shares in the past few weeks, with Germany’s DAX surging 20 percent since mid-October and hitting a record high on Thursday, before falling back.
The lack of clear details during ECB President Mario Draghi’s press conference on if and when the central bank will take the radical step of printing money to buy sovereign bonds prompted investors to lock in their recent gains.
“Investors were hoping for more substance on sovereign bond purchases, but Draghi hasn’t given investors anything that is really new,” said John Smith, senior fund manager at Brown Shipley.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares ended 1.4 percent lower, at 1,380.77 points, its sharpest one-day drop in 7 weeks.
Euro zone banking stocks featured among the top losers, with Spain’s Bankia down 6 percent and Italy’s UniCredit down 4.1 percent.
However, Europe’s ‘fear gauge’, the Euro STOXX 50 Volatility Index, fell 3.6 percent on Thursday, showing no rise in investor risk aversion despite the market sell-off.
“Despite no action at today’s ECB meeting, president Draghi sent strong signals that QE will start next year,” ING economist Carsten Brzeski said.
Around Europe, UK’s FTSE 100 index fell 0.6 percent, France’s CAC 40 slipped 1.6 percent and Italy’s MIB shed 2.8 percent.
Shares in oil and gas firms lost ground again, as Brent crude failed to rebound above $70 a barrel. Statoil lost 2.9 percent and BP dropped 2.3 percent.
Ryanair bucked the trend, surging 8.4 percent after the airline raised its profit forecast for the second time in a month as passenger numbers jumped 22 percent last month.
Other airlines also gained ground, with Air France-KLM up 1.6 percent and Deutsche Lufthansa up 1.1 percent. The sector has been one of the big winners of the recent drop in oil prices as jet fuel, derived from crude, accounts for around a third of airlines’ operating costs.
Europe bourses in 2014: link.reuters.com/pap87v
Asset performance in 2014: link.reuters.com/gap87v
Today’s European research round-up (Additional reporting by Atul Prakash in London; Editing by Hugh Lawson)