LONDON, March 15 (Reuters) - European equities retreated
from 4-1/2-year peaks on Friday, with weak U.S. data prompting
investors to lock in profits for the weekend and with the March
options expiry leaving the market less protected against a fall.
U.S. consumer sentiment sank its lowest over a year, while
inflation picked up, the data showed, casting doubts over the
strength of the world's biggest economy, hopes of a recovery in
which had supported recent global equity gains.
For the European stock market, which is on track for its
10th month of gains despite a struggling domestic economy and
falling corporate earnings, that was enough to prompt a round of
"What's dragging on it today? May be the U.S. data, the
weaker consumer confidence," said James Butterfill, global
equity strategists at Coutts, although he did not rule out the
possibility of more gains in the near term.
"(Central bank stimulus) in the U.S. and Japan is quite a
back-stop in terms of any significant downside but saying that
we are cautious on most equity markets at the moment ... If you
are concerned that markets are looking quite toppy then you
could look more for dividend plays. What we are doing in
portfolios is not adding to positions."
The FTSEurofirst 300 provisionally closed down 0.4 percent
at 1,202.65 points, retreating from a fresh 4-1/2-year high set
at the start of the session.
The EuroSTOXX 50 fell 0.7 percent, with the move accentuated
by the expiry of a large number of put options.