European shares dip as euro zone sinks into recession

Last Updated: Thu, Nov 15, 2012 11:40 hrs

* FTSEurofirst down 0.5 percent

* Euro zone falls into 2nd recession post 2009

* Growth outlook sees investors cut equity positions

* H&M posts unexpected fall in sales

* Analysts cut European corporate earnings forecasts for Q4

By David Brett

LONDON, Nov 15 (Reuters) - European shares fell for the second day running on Thursday as investors fretted over waning growth due to the euro zone debt crisis and doubts about the U.S. fiscal situation.

By 1112 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 had shed 4.86 points, or 0.5 percent to 1,083.57, adding to Wednesday's 1 percent decline, while the euro zone blue chip index fell 0.2 percent to 2,468.74.

Concerns over whether the Greek government can avert a default and if Spain will ask for a formal bailout, combined with the approaching U.S. 'fiscal cliff' of some $600 billion in automatic tax hikes and spending cuts has hit business and investors confidence.

Those concerns have led to declining volumes in equities as investors have opted to conserve cash or invest in safer assets such as German or U.S. government debt. The FTSEurofirst traded just 20 percent of its average 90-day daily volume by 1112 GMT.

UBS said its Global Positioning Index declined for the third consecutive week on falling risk appetite, while the recent decline in the UBS global risk index has reversed and has started to rise.

"Lingering concerns over near-term global growth mean that investors are less positive about cyclical assets compared to two weeks ago," UBS said in a note.

Insurers, which are directly exposed to Europe's debt crisis and rallied over the last three months as central banks stepped in to shore up the global economy, fell 0.8 percent.

There was more downbeat news out of the euro zone, which fell into a recession in July-September, the second since the global financial crisis in 2009.

"I do not see any good news coming over the next couple weeks and no encouraging signs that will change investors' mood," Johannes Reich, head of equity research and strategy at Bankhaus Metzler, said.

He said the outlook for growth, particularly in Europe remains a stumbling block, but the accommodative loose monetary policy from central banks should prevent a steep retracement in equity markets.

"It is going to be bumpy ride for equities but I do not see a major trend up or down," Reich said.

The weak demand and waning confidence among consumers is denting the outlook for corporates.

Hennes & Mauritz, the world's second-largest fashion retailer, fell 3.7 percent after it reported an unexpected 5 percent fall in comparable sales in October.

The retail sector was down 1.2 percent with London-listed Kingfisher falling 2.5 percent after British retail sales posted a shock drop in October.

It is not just the retailers that are suffering, Zurich Insurance Group shed 3.2 percent after missing third-quarter profit expectations, while British life insurer Resolution was 3.6 percent lower after being hit by rising IT costs.

Those results followed telecoms firm Vodafone and utility E.ON both of whom cut their outlooks recently citing falling demand in Europe.

Reflecting concerns over the economic outlook, analysts have cut their fourth-quarter earnings estimates for European firms by an average of 3.6 percent.

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