PARIS Dec 27 European shares steadied early on Thursday in their first trading session following the Christmas break, with investors focusing on Washington's last-ditch efforts to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff.
At 0808 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was down 0.1 percent at 1,136.82 points.
With significant tax hikes and spending cuts set to be triggered next week, Republican House of Representatives speaker John Boehner urged the Democrat-controlled Senate to act to pull back from the cliff and offered to at least consider any bill the upper chamber produced.
"There is still hope for a last-minute deal, otherwise we're in for a correction in January. People have already priced in an agreement. Without it, the market can't stay at these levels," a Paris-based trader said.
Banking shares lost ground, while stocks in miners rose along with base metal prices, boosted by renewed optimism about China's economic growth.
Rio Tinto added 0.9 percent and BHP Billiton gained 0.8 percent.
Kraft withdraws offer to merge with Unilever
UPDATE 3-SpaceX launches rocket from historic NASA pad in Florida
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., Feb 19 A SpaceX Falcon rocket blasted off on Sunday from a Florida launch pad once used to send NASA astronauts to the moon, a step forward for billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk and his company's goal of ferrying astronauts to the International Space Station. The 229-foot tall (70-meter) Falcon 9 soared off a seaside launchpad at the Kennedy Space Center at 9:39 a.m. ET (1439 GMT) carrying a Dragon cargo ship bound for the station.