European shares fall on stimulus uncertainty

Last Updated: Wed, Aug 07, 2013 12:00 hrs

* FTSEurofirst 300 down 0.2 pct

* Britain's FTSE lags as BoE ties rates to employment

* Possible imminent cut in U.S. stimulus saps appetite for shares

* Randgold weighs as falling gold price hits profits

By Francesco Canepa

LONDON, Aug 7 (Reuters) - European stocks fell on Wednesday, led by Britain's FTSE 100, on concerns the British and U.S. central banks may tighten monetary policy earlier than markets had anticipated.

Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.8 percent after the Bank of England said it planned to keep interest rates at current records lows until unemployment falls to 7 percent.

"They've left themselves open to interpretation," Ioan Smith at Knight Capital, said. "Rates are not going to rise, though they can, because (governor Mark Carney) has stressed that they are not pre-committed in any way, they are just offering guidance."

The BoE's quantitative easing programme and similar schemes operated by the U.S. Federal Reserve and other global central banks have helped the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index rise 13 percent in the past year.

The index was down 0.2 percent at 1,218.60 points on Wednesday, weighed down by concerns the Fed may discontinue its own QE programme in the next couple months.

Chicago Fed President Charles Evans, typically among the most dovish policymakers, said late on Tuesday the central bank will probably trim its bond-buying with new money later this year and could do so next month, depending on economic data.

"Now we think that the market clearly understands that (QE) tapering is going to happen," said Franz Wenzel, a strategist at AXA Investment Managers, who expects U.S. economic data to continue to improve and the Fed to start reducing its bond purchases in September.

Some downbeat corporate results also weighed on the index.

Shares in Brenntag fell 5.8 percent to the bottom of the FTSEurofirst 300 as the world's largest chemicals distributor posted second-quarter core earnings below market expectations and warned of slowing growth.

Africa-focused miner Randgold Resources fell 3.6 percent after it posted a 62 percent drop in quarterly profit, hit by the plunging gold price and echoing a weak update by peer Fresnillo the previous day.

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