Losses were broad-based as many technology, insurance and banking issues handed back some recent gains, pushing the FTSE Eurotop 300 index down 0.6 percent at 928 points, about 1.2 per cent below Tuesdays 2003 intra-day high of 940 points.
But United Utilities was a bright spot, up three per cent after Britains water industry regulator said it had given preliminary approval for the utilities company and peer Northumbrian Water to increase water and sewerage charges. Strategists said equity markets had entered a short-term consolidation phase, after a six-session winning streak propped up the benchmark Eurotop 300 index by nearly five per cent. But expectations of fresh positive economic data and continuous good corporate news flow with seasonally strong fourth-quarter earnings meant many market watchers remained bullish on equities for the next three to six months.
The next reporting season will be positive again, so I think there is still a little bit more to go (for markets), said Commerzbank strategist Rolf Elgeti, adding that he expected markets to take a new downturn if first-quarter results in 2004 fail to match investors higher expectations.