* STOXX 600 index down 0.3 pct
* Italian lenders, Credit Suisse down
* Gold miners in demand
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By Kit Rees
LONDON, Dec 29 European shares opened slightly
lower on Thursday as miners fell and Italian banks and Credit
Suisse led banking shares lower.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index was down 0.3
percent. Volumes were subdued during the last few days of the
Banking stocks were among the top fallers, led lower
by Italian merger partners Banco Popolare and Banca
Popolare di Milano, which both fell more than 2
Shares in fellow Italian lender Monte dei Paschi
were suspended once again, and Italy's economy minister said the
actual amount for the government's recapitalisation of the bank
would depend on the lender's new industrial plan, in an
interview to Italy's daily Il Sole 24 Ore.
"The banks have really been the ultimate pain trade for
professional fund managers in the second half of the year, and
it's all been very much part of this switch from expensive
defensives and quality growth to cyclicals," Russ Mould,
investment director at AJ Bell, said.
"Because they're very difficult companies to understand and
you had the Deutsche Bank flap in the autumn, you've got the
ongoing Italian situation, lots of fund managers are still
fighting shy of them, but they did brilliantly in the second
half of the year."
Credit Suisse was down 2.1 percent after a media
report saying the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is
investigating the sale of $850 million in bonds issued by
Mozambique by Credit Suisse, Russia's VTB Group and BNP Paribas
, which was down 1 percent.
While the broader European basic resources index
declined, precious metals miners Polymetal International
, Randgold Resources and Fresnillo
were the top gainers on the STOXX 600, up between 1.9 percent
and 2.6 percent as the price of gold found support from a
declining U.S. dollar.
The STOXX 600 index is set to post a loss of 1.4 percent for
2016, while France's CAC, Germany's DAX and
Britain's FTSE 100 indexes are all on course to end the
year with a gain.
(Reporting by Kit Rees; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Mark