* Bayer falls on scrutiny of Xarelto drug
* DuPont/Dow Chemical merger talks lift Syngenta and BASF
By Sudip Kar-Gupta
LONDON, Dec 9 (Reuters) - European shares fell on Wednesday to their lowest level in more than two months, weighed down by a drop at pharmaceuticals group Bayer and more pressure on commodity stocks.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index fell 0.3 percent to its lowest level since late October, while the euro zone’s blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index also slipped by 0.2 percent.
Bayer shares fell by 3.4 percent as European and U.S. drug safety agencies probed whether a defective blood-clotting test device affected a trial involving Bayer’s anti-blood clotting drug Xarelto.
Oil prices climbed back up on Wednesday as U.S. crude inventories dipped, while Japan posted rising machinery orders and copper prices also held their ground.
Nevertheless, many investors were cautious, citing persistent concerns about a slowdown in China and uncertainty over the impact of a likely U.S. interest rate hike in December.
China is the world’s biggest consumer of metals, and fears about a slowdown in the country have knocked back commodity stocks this year.
Data on Wednesday showed that China’s consumer inflation picked up slightly in November but remained well under the government’s 2015 price target of 3 percent, raising concerns that the world’s second-biggest economy could be sucked into a Japan-style deflationary trap.
“I am taking a more defensive attitude now, and I have cut equities to neutral from overweight,” said Francois Savary, chief investment officer at investment management firm Prime Partners.
Ashtead was the best-performing stock on the European STOXX 600 index, climbing 8.2 percent after the industrial equipment hire group raised its profit expectations.
Syngenta and BASF shares also rose on the back of merger talks between rivals Dow Chemical and DuPont.
In spite of the pullback so far this week, European stock markets remain in positive territory since the start of 2015, helped by economic stimulus measures from the European Central Bank (ECB).
The FTSEurofirst is up around 5 percent since the start of 2015, while Germany’s DAX is up nearly 10 percent.
Today’s European research round-up (Editing by Estelle Shirbon)