European equities flatline as Dassault loss offsets defensives

Reuters

* FTSEurofirst 300 index steadies by midday

* Tech shares lead a sell-off in cyclicals

* Dassault slumps after warning on growth

By Atul Prakash

LONDON, Oct 14 (Reuters) - European equities were littlechanged on Monday as weakness in technology shares, after awarning from Dassault on revenue growth, offset gains indefensive stocks.

Concerns about any impact from the U.S. budget impasse andfears of slower growth in China hurt cyclicals most. Financials,mining, cars and technology sectors were all weaker. The autosector fell 0.5 percent and banks 0.4 percent.

Figures showing China's exports fell in September hurtsentiment as the data disappointed investors who were banking ona continuation of recent positive numbers.

Those concerns prompted investors to take refuge indefensives, with utilities and telecoms up 0.6percent and 1 percent respectively, supporting the FTSEurofirst300, which was flat at 1,250.57 points by 1036 GMT.

The STOXX Europe 600 technology index was the topsectoral decliner, down 1.1 percent, led by a 7 percent drop inFrench software maker Dassault which warned ofsluggish orders, especially in Asia.

"The risk continues to be on the downside if there is noagreement ahead of Thursday, which is everybody's line in thesand for the debt ceiling," Gerard Lane, Shore Captial equitystrategist, said, referring the U.S. Treasury potentially losingits authority to borrow money on Oct. 17..

"If you are worried like I am, then you want to be verydefensive," he said.

Equities had rallied on Friday on expectations a deal to endthe U.S. fiscal crisis and avoid a debt default could be reachedover the weekend. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid andRepublican leader Mitch McConnell held talks that Reid latercalled "substantive", but investors remained risk-averse.

"It's a difficult start into the new week, with no realprogress to resolve issues related to the U.S. shutdown and debtceiling and disappointing Chinese exports data hurtingsentiment," said Christian Stocker, strategist at UniCredit.

"Investors should focus on the earnings season. I expect amore positive tone from European companies as the economicenvironment in the region has stabilised in recent months."

Major U.S. companies announcing results this week includeCitigroup, Intel, Johnson & Johnson andGoldman Sachs. The third-quarter European earnings seasonwill gather momentum in the last week of October.

Johnson Matthey rose more than 4 percent to top thegainers' list, with traders citing a JP Morgan note, raising itsrecommendation to "overweight" from "neutral".

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