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Sanofi sends European shares to 2013 closing lows


* FTSEurofirst 300 falls 0.3 pct to 2013 closing low * Euro STOXX 50 falls 0.7 pct to 2,597.92 points * Sanofi slumps after warning of possible earnings fall * Market fall likely to be short-lived, buying on dips seen By Sudip Kar-Gupta LONDON, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Two leading European equity indexes fell to 2013 closing lows on Thursday, hit by a fall in drugmaker Sanofi after disappointing results and on persistent concern over the economic outlook. Still, many investors expected the market's decline to be relatively short-lived and shallow, with funds still looking to put money into higher-yielding stocks rather than bonds. The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index closed down 0.3 percent at 1,148.28 points, its lowest close since Dec. 31. The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index fell 0.7 percent to 2,597.92 points, its worst finish since early December. European Central Bank (ECB) head Mario Draghi said economic weakness would continue to afflict the region, hit by a debt crisis, in the early part of 2013 and some traders took this as a cue to sell. "I think we have another two to three percent fall to take place on European equities over the next few weeks," said Clairinvest fund manager Ion-Marc Valahu. "But I'm not expecting another major downwards movement. I'm just expecting us to consolidate for another two to three weeks." SANOFI SLUMPS The Euro STOXX 50 rose some 30 percent between June 2012 and January this year, on expectations that a pledge last year by Draghi to protect the euro currency from the region's sovereign debt crisis had reduced the risk of a major economic implosion in Europe. Since then, many investors have been looking for reasons to sell shares to bank profits on the back of that rally, and lacklustre corporate earnings and persistent fears over Europe's anaemic economy have led some to sell off equity holdings. French drugmaker Sanofi highlighted the mixed set of corporate results from Europe's top companies so far, warning that its earnings could fall this year. That sent its shares down by 4 percent and took the most points off the FTSEurofirst 300, subtracting 0.77 points from the index. In contrast, shares of Norwegian bank DNB surged 7.3 percent to top the FTSEurofirst 300 leaderboard after the bank posted higher-than-expected profits. According to Thomson Reuters Starmine data, 38 percent of the companies to have so far reported earnings on the pan-European STOXX 600 index have missed market expectations. Francois Savary, chief investment officer at Swiss bank Reyl, was waiting for European stockmarkets to decline a bit further before buying back into them, adding he would buy into the Euro STOXX 50 if it fell to 2,545 points. "We are waiting for more consolidation to take place in February," said Savary. Several traders expected European equity markets to trade sideways in February, due to uncertainty over the outcome of Italian elections this month, but then resume an upwards trajectory towards the end of the first quarter. Mirabaud Securities' European equity sales executive Rupert Baker said investors were still buying shares "on the dip" at relatively cheap prices on days when stockmarkets fell, which would help prevent any bigger drop on equity markets. "People will still buy the dips," he said.