* FTSEurofirst flat at 1,164.02 points
* Euro STOXX 50 slips 0.1 pct
* Fall in banks and Johnson Matthey weigh on equities
* PPR surges after results beat forecasts
By Sudip Kar-Gupta
LONDON, Feb 15 Weaker financial and chemicals
stocks weighed on European markets on Friday, with traders
expecting declines over the next month after a strong January
The FTSEurofirst 300 index was broadly flat at
1,164.02 points, while the euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50
index slipped 0.1 percent to 2,631.53 points.
Many investors and traders have been forecasting a weaker
equity market in February and March due to lingering worries
over the euro zone's sovereign debt crisis, before equities pick
up again in April.
The FTSEurofirst 300 has risen around 3 percent since the
start of 2013, having gained more than 20 percent from a low
point last June, buoyed by a European Central Bank (ECB) pledge
of new measures to tackle the region's economic problems.
However, signs that Europe's economic woes have not been
resolved were highlighted on Thursday by data that showed a
contraction in the euro zone economy.
HED Capital head Richard Edwards said he felt the export-led
German economy remained best placed to deal with the weak
Edwards backed using any stock market weakness to buy
positions on Germany's benchmark DAX equity index while
selling the Spanish, Italy and French equity markets, with Spain
and Italy still hit hard by the region's debt problems.
"There's more growth going on in the United States than in
Europe. We would use any weakness to buy Germany while selling
Italy, Spain and France," he said.
Financial stocks fell, with Germany's Commerzbank
retreating by 0.1 percent after warning it expected an increase
in loan loss provisions.
The STOXX Europe 600 financial services index fell
0.5 percent while the STOXX Europe 600 banking index
slipped 0.2 percent.
Chemicals group Johnson Matthey was among the worst
performers on the FTSEurofirst 300, falling 2.5 percent after
saying it expected to suffer a loss after failing to renew a
deal with Anglo American Platinum.
However, a 5.4 percent surge in French luxury goods group
PPR prevented equity markets from falling further
after it reported forecast-beating results.
Terry Torrison, managing director at Monaco-based McLaren
Securities, said any fall in equity markets this month would be
relatively short-lived and limited.
Torrison said the broader trend remained one of investors
putting money into equities rather than cash or bonds, due to
the better returns on offer from stock dividends.
"There is some scepticism out there that February is not
going to be a great month, but I think there's more room to run.
The momentum is still intact," said Torrison.