* FTSEurofirst 300 down 0.2 percent
* UK, US data offsets China GDP growth
* Retailers dented by consumer sentiment data
* Mediaset 9-month highs triggers short covering
By David Brett
LONDON, Jan 18 European shares slipped on Friday
as disappointing economic data in the UK and U.S. dampened
sentiment, but technical support and on-going central bank
stimulus measures kept indexes at multi-month highs.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index closed down 1.9 points
at 1,163.64 points.
The outlook for global growth took a knock after a shock
fall in UK retail sales cast a pall over 2013 expectations,
while in the United States consumer sentiment unexpectedly
deteriorated for a second straight month to its lowest in over a
That helped drag retailers lower and took some of
the shine off gains of basic resource stocks, which had
earlier risen after data in China showed economic growth
accelerated for the first time in two years in December.
"We have had the good China data and reasonable earnings in
the U.S. which has been quite supportive. I think the markets
can push higher but we are running out of catalysts," Guy
Foster, head of portfolio strategy at Brewin Dolphin, said.
Momentum has stalled on European indexes of late.
The FTSEurofirst 300 has traded in a tight 10-point range
since hitting near two-month highs on Jan. 3, while the UK blue
chip index is at four-and-a-half year highs, but equity markets
have built in some technical and fundamental support of late.
"Some key levels are holding, namely 6,150 on the FTSE
," Atif Latif, director at Guardian Stockbrokers, said.
"If central banks continue to add stimulus then equity
markets remain, for the moment, in an uptrend. Experience,
however, tells us that we are due a correction imminently and we
await for the move down before moving into buying bias on
existing positions," he said.
The EuroSTOXX 50 index of euro zone blue chips
has risen some 12 percent since mid-November, but with concern
over a reversal building and volatility on the EuroSTOXX 50
- a crude barometer of risk aversion - near five-year
lows now might be the time to buy some cheap protection against
Strategists at BNP Paribas recommend buying an at-the-money
February put on the EuroSTOXX 50 and selling the equivalent
contract on U.S. S&P 500 or on the German DAX,
where they expect economic growth - and thus corporate earnings
- to hold up better.
European companies start reporting next week. They are
expected to post a 1 percent year-on-year drop in fourth-quarter
earnings, on average, against a forecast for 2.1 percent for
U.S. peers, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine.
Publisher Pearson, however, rose 0.5 percent,
helping the media sector up 0.9 percent, ahead of its
trading update on Monday.
Traders also cited reports in the Daily Telegraph that the
Financial Times, which is owned by Pearson, is being touted for
sale by investment banks including Nomura and Bank of America
Merrill Lynch for up to 1 billion pounds ($1.60 billion), as
being supportive of the share price.
Italy's Mediaset, meanwhile, rallied 5.8 percent
with traders citing short covering on Italy's biggest private TV
broadcaster after recent gains - the stock hit 9-month highs -
triggered stop losses.
Shares worth some 8 percent of Mediaset's market
capitalisation were out on loan at the market close on Jan. 16,
Markit data shows, making the media group the fourth most
shorted stock on Italy's blue-chip index.