* FTSEurofirst 300 falls 0.3 pct to 1,207.16 points
* Euro STOXX 50 dips 0.1 pct to 2,722.90 points
* Late session sell-off knocks back markets
* Traders cite concerns that Apple may post weak results
* STMicro slumps 10.4 pct after posting wider loss
By Sudip Kar-Gupta
LONDON, July 23 (Reuters) - European shares fell on Tuesday
as a late sell-off knocked markets off seven-week highs, with
semiconductor group STMicroelectronics leading the way
after weak results.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index spent much
of the day in positive territory, at one stage rising as much as
0.5 percent to a seven-week intraday high of 1,216.36 points.
However, the index then gradually drifted lower to close
down 0.3 percent at 1,207.16 points.
STMicro topped the list of FTSEurofirst fallers, tumbling
10.4 percent after the company posted a wider loss.
The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index
also came off its session highs to close down by 0.1 percent at
2,722.90 points. The FTSEurofirst 300 is up 6.5 percent since
the start of 2013 while the Euro STOXX 50 is 3.3 percent higher.
Traders said there was no single specific factor behind the
sell-off, but several cited investors looking to book profits on
the earlier move up in case tech group Apple posted
weak results after the close which might then hit stock markets.
"We've certainly been consolidating for the last couple of
sessions and there's the potential for Apple's earnings to
disappoint," said Logic Investments strategy head Peter Rice.
"The risk is for further selling pressure. The likelihood is
a continuation of the downward draft," he added.
TECH SECTOR WEAKNESS
The technology sector has already posted disappointing
second-quarter earnings this month, and the STOXX Europe 600
Technology Index fell 0.7 percent to make it one of the
region's worst-performing equity sectors.
U.S. bellwethers Microsoft and Google both
posted weaker-than-expected results this month while in Europe,
German business software maker SAP cut its sales
However, Andrew Arbuthnott, European equities fund manager
at Pioneer Investments, kept a positive view on European shares
and said sell-offs in European stock markets would provide
investors with a good entry point to buy into them.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index has fallen some 4 percent from a
five-year high of 1,258.09 points reached in late May, as
markets retreated in June due to expectations that the U.S.
Federal Reserve will eventually scale back stimulus measures
that had driven much of the global equity rally.
"We remain constructive on European equities as an asset
class," said Arbuthnott.
"Every cloud has a silver lining and the recent
consolidation in equity markets may provide the entry
opportunity equity investors have been looking for."