* FTSEurofirst 300 index falls 0.4 percent
* Barclays drags down banks on Qatar news
* Euro STOXX 50 faces stiff resistance at 2600
By Atul Prakash
LONDON, Nov 26 (Reuters) - European shares retreated in morning trading on Monday, with investors focusing on a meeting of euro zone finance ministers on Greece and taking some profits following last week’s strong performance by major stock indexes.
Analysts said the market had potential to bounce back again on any positive outcome of the euro zone meeting, at which the ministers and International Monetary Fund officials will again try to reach a deal to get international lenders to release a new tranche of aid to debt-burdened Greece.
At 0909 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index was 0.4 percent lower at 1,106.26 points after gaining for five straight sessions and surging 4 percent last week, the best weekly performance since early December last year.
“Last week was very good for the markets and it seems that investors are taking a breather ahead of the euro zone meeting. There is some caution, but it is also clear that Greece’s lenders will not allow the country to fail. A Greek default is not an option,” said Koen De Leus, senior economist at KBC in Brussels.
“We are on the optimistic side. Investors should have stop-losses in place to minimise their losses, but should be prepared to buy the dips.”
Sectors more dependent on economic activities were the top decliners, partly on worries that any setback in talks relating to the U.S. “fiscal cliff” of scheduled tax rises and spending cuts from 2013 could derail the world’s biggest economy.
U.S. lawmakers have made little progress in the past 10 days on the issue. Serious negotiations are expected to resume this week, with Democratic and Republican lawmakers trying to convince the public they are willing to compromise and can reach a deal before the end of the year.
Energy shares fell 0.8 percent and construction stocks were down 0.5 percent. Banks fell 0.6 percent, dragged down by Barclays, which fell 3.7 percent after news Qatar Holding had cashed in on its remaining warrants in the bank.
Investors’ focus remained on Europe, with tens of thousands of Italians rallying across the country over the weekend to protest against austerity measures, and separatists in Spain’s Catalonia winning regional elections on Sunday.
The euro zone’s blue chip Euro STOXX 50 index dropped 0.4 percent at 2,546.90 points after surging 5.3 percent last week, the best weekly performance in nearly a year.
“The index is seen finding support at 2,450 from where it bounced back on several occasions in the past weeks,” Petra von Kerssenbrock, technical analyst at Commerzbank, said.
“We still have abundant liquidity in the market and the positive ground tone prevails. It faces a massive resistance at 2,600, which proved to be a resistance in March 2012 and was a support back in July 2011. It will be difficult to break the level but we could go there and test it.”
Analyst stayed positive on the market’s longer-term outlook.
Strategists at Morgan Stanley upgraded European equities to “attractive” from “neutral” in a 2013 outlook, expecting double-digit percentage growth from the MSCI Europe index with earnings revisions beginning to improve and global economic indicators appearing to be troughing.