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Euro shares extend a two-week slide

Thursday, March 13 16:31:28

European stocks fell today, extending a two-week slide, as worries over economic growth in China and tension in Ukraine took their toll on market sentiment.

A sell-off among UK retailers after a profit warning by Morrison's also kept investors on edge.

Concern about China intensified after data showed its economy slowed markedly in the first two months of the year. Growth in investment, retail sales and factory output have all dropped to multi-year lows.

Investors were also wary about developments in Ukraine before Sunday's referendum in Crimea, which investors worry could bring harsh Western sanctions against Russia.

Germany's Angela Merkel warned Moscow that it risked "massive" political and economic damage if it refused to change course on Ukraine, saying Western leaders were united in their readiness to impose sanctions on Russia if necessary.

"Investors are just concentrating on China and the Ukraine," IG market analyst Chris Beauchamp said. "I don't think we'll see much progress (in equity markets) at all... certainly into next week."

At 1601 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was down 0.6 percent at 1,298.95 points. The index has slipped about 4 percent since late February.

Despite the recent pull-back, strategists remained bullish on the longer-term outlook for European equities. They said shares should continue to benefit from investment inflows supported by expectations of a strengthening global economy.

"European equities ... remain relatively under-owned globally. We know that there are still flows away from emerging markets which we think will persist and that money needs to find a new home. (It is) more likely to go into European and Japanese equities than U.S. equities," Gerry Fowler, global head of equity and derivatives strategy at BNP Paribas, said.

"We think there may well be allocations out of U.S. equities from pension funds who are overweight and they may put that money into Japanese and European equities."