* FTSEurofirst 300 down 0.1 percent, volumes weak
* Euro zone blue chip stocks at 16-month highs
* Momentum stalls on U.S. worries
* Media stocks rise, ITV buys U.S. stake
By David Brett
LONDON, Dec 24 European shares closed
provisionally lower in a thin last trading session before the
Christmas break with investors opting to trim positions in the
absence of a resolution to U.S. budget talks.
French, Dutch, Spanish and UK markets traded for only half
the session while those in Germany, Italy, Austria, Greece,
Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland were closed.
The FTSEurofirst 300 closed down 0.1 percent, at
1,138.14 points, still just a few points shy of an 19-month high
of 1,144.15 hit last week.
"There are very few people in the office and most of the
business being done is trimming positions after some decent
year-end gains," a London-based trader said.
The euro zone's blue chip Euro STOXX 50 index
and France's CAC 40, which are trading around 16-month
highs, closed down 0.1 percent and 0.2 percent respectively.
Spain's IBEX finished up 0.1 percent and Britain's FTSE
100 index was up 0.2 percent; they are both at around
Rebecca O'Keeffe, head of investment at Interactive
Investor, said the march higher was largely the result of
investors betting U.S. policymakers will avoid the so-called
fiscal cliff and that Europe's debt crisis is abating.
After shunning European assets most of the year because of
fears the crisis would lead to a break-up of the euro zone,
investors have shown appetite for European stocks recently,
according to EPFR Global data.
But momentum has been stalled by concerns over the talks
between U.S. Democrats and Republicans to avoid around $600
billion in automatic tax hikes and spending cuts that could drag
the world's biggest economy back into recession.
"Events last week highlight the yawning gap that still
remains between the Republicans and Democrats and suggest that
investor optimism may be misplaced," Interactive Investor
The majority of sectors ended in negative territory, but
media shares managed a 0.3 percent rise boosted by M&A
activity at London-listed broadcaster ITV.
ITV rose 0.6 percent after announcing the purchase of a
61.5 percent stake in U.S.-based Gurney Productions, which makes