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European shares end lower as protests outweigh earnings

Source : REUTERS
Last Updated: Wed, Nov 14, 2012 18:00 hrs

* FTSEurofirst 300 down 1.0 percent

* Iberian austerity strikes disrupt transport

* Ryanair descends on disruptions, ex-div

* Vivendi and Telekom Austria gain after results

By David Brett

LONDON, Nov 14 (Reuters) - European shares fell on Wednesday, led by Ryanair, as unrest in Europe over austerity measures overshadowed some upbeat company results.

The FTSEurofirst 300 closed down 10.73 points, or 1.0 percent, at 1,088.43, paring gains made on Tuesday after speculation Spain might be closer to asking for a bailout.

Olli Rehn, the EU's top economic official, said measures Spain announced for 2014 on deficit reductions fall short of what is required, although it has taken effective action to address its budget deficits in 2012 and 2013.

"There are still some big macro headwinds out there," said David Hambidge, who leads the multi-asset team at Premier Asset Management, which has around 3 billion pounds ($4.75 billion) of assets under management.

"We wouldn't chase the market higher from this level but should equities have a reasonable correction then we would be looking to add to our position," he said.

Strikes in Spain and Portugal on Wednesday in protest against spending cuts and tax hikes shut transport links across the Iberian peninsula.

This put further pressure on Irish budget airline Ryanair , which was trading without dividend rights. The stock led fallers, down 5.9 percent in volume nearly five times its 90-day daily average

Middle East tensions and the question of whether the U.S. government can avoid a "fiscal cliff" of some $600 billion in automatic tax hikes and spending cuts added to the broader downbeat tone.

RISK AVERSION

Illustrating investors' aversion to risk, basic resource stocks, whose appeal rests on global economic strength, fell 2.1 percent.

Investors anxious to preserve capital accepted negative yields on two-year German government debt, while longer-term Spanish bond yields edged back toward the 6 percent level.

Traders remain convinced that bond market investors will eventually force Spain's hand in asking for help by pushing the yield on their debt beyond sustainable long-term levels.

Partly reflecting the economic damage from the euro debt crisis, telecoms firm Vodafone and utility E.ON have cut their outlooks and 43 percent of companies in Europe missed earnings expectations in the current quarter.

That has triggered an average downgrade to fourth-quarter estimates of 2.8 percent over the last 30 days. The debt crisis has weighed on companies in the U.S. too, where 61.7 percent have reported revenue below analyst expectations, compared with an average beat of 62 percent over the last 10 years.

Investors, however, welcomed forecast-beating results at Vivendi and Telekom Austria, which boosted their share prices, but broader macro worries dragged the euro zone blue chip index down 0.8 percent to 2,472.

"The market (E-STOXX 50) is mostly moving between 2,475 and 2525, where all the pins (the weight of where option market is positioned) are for options expiry at the end of the week. I don't expect it to fall much further," a London-based portfolio trader at a U.S. investment bank said.



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