* FTSEurofirst 300 falls 1.4 pct, Euro STOXX 50 down 1.7 pct
* New signs of China slowdown hits mining stocks
* Fall in Swiss exports hits Swatch and Richemont
By Sudip Kar-Gupta
LONDON, June 20 (Reuters) - European shares fell on Thursday as confirmation that the U.S. Federal Reserve would wind down economic stimulus measures, together with weak Chinese data, hit investor sentiment.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index, which hit a 5-1/2 year high last month, was down 1.4 percent at 1,163.11 points in early trading, while the euro zone’s blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index fell 1.7 percent to 2,637.36 points.
Miners dominated the loserboard, falling on fresh signs of a slowdown in China - the world’s biggest metals consumer.
Swiss luxury goods stocks Swatch and Richemont were also among the FTSEurofirst 300’s worst performers, which traders attributed to data showing a fall in Swiss exports.
Global equity markets have fallen from multi-year highs over the last month as expectations have mounted that the U.S. Federal Reserve will start scaling back its economic stimulus.
The programme has hit returns on bonds and thereby driven many investors over to the better returns on offer from equities. Fed chief Ben Bernanke said on Wednesday that it was likely to wind down this programme later this year.
Data showing fresh signs of a slowdown in China also weighed, with the Euro STOXX Volatility Index - a measure of investor fear - edging up 2.5 percent to 20.92 points.
“I think the weak Chinese data is a big play here, along with the Fed’s comments,” said Darren Courtney-Cook, head of trading at Central Markets Investment Management.
Courtney-Cook had bought “put” options on Germany’s DAX that mature in July with a strike price of 8,000 points - implying a fall of over 2 percent on that index over the next month. The DAX was down 2 percent at 8,036.47 points.
Any pullback on European equities is likely to be temporary, Courtney-Cook said, expecting shares to gradually resume their upwards trajectory towards year-end, with the FTSEurofirst 300 still up 3 percent since the start of 2013.
However, he said he would not look to buy equities in the near term and Logic Investments’ director Darren Easton also said it was too risky to add to equity holdings at present.
“I think the fall may have been overplayed in the short-term, but I would still like to see more positive price action before I buy back in. One thing for sure, volatility is going to remain high for a while,” he said.