Defensives drag European shares lower, Pearson drops after stake sale

* STOXX 600 down 0.7 pct

* Consumer staples, real estate outweigh cyclical strength

* Pearson falls after Penguin stake sale

* Staffing companies hit by Deutsche Bank downgrades
(Recasts, adds detail, updates prices at close)

By Helen Reid and Kit Rees

LONDON, July 11 (Reuters) – European shares ended Tuesday on
the backfoot as losses among defensive consumer staples and real
estate stocks outweighed strength in autos and miners.

The pan-European STOXX 600 was down 0.7 percent at
its close, while euro zone stocks and blue-chips
fell 0.4 percent, in muted trading punctuated by
early earnings updates and more corporate deal-making.

Consumer staples including food and drink companies
and household goods weighed, with real estate stocks
also falling 1.2 percent.

Auto stocks were a bright spot, up 1 percent, after
data showed Chinese passenger car sales rose.

“We note that defensive equity sectors earnings have
generally weakened while cyclical sectors keep their positive
momentum,” said Valentin Bissat, equity analyst at Mirabaud
Asset Management.

“Overall for the region, the equity risk premium has
decreased, which in turn increases companies’ buybacks, a trend
which is likely to continue in the short term as reduced
uncertainties and a cyclical recovery decrease the necessity to
hold liquidity in cash,” Bissat added.

Basic resources was the only other sector in
positive territory, up 0.5 percent as metals prices gained.

Pearson wiped out early gains to fall to the bottom
of the STOXX, down more than 5 percent after selling a 22
percent stake in publisher Penguin Random House. Analysts were
concerned about what this would mean for future dividends.

Analysts at Liberum, which has a “sell” rating on the
restructuring education publisher, were sceptical about the
details of the deal.

Marks & Spencer reported a rise in full-price sales,
but its shares fell 4.7 percent, partly on the back of
underwhelming food sales.

Broker notes spurred some of the biggest individual moves,
with semiconductor maker AMS a top gainer after Credit
Suisse upped its target price.

Peer STMicro – a supplier to tech giant Apple –
received a boost after JP Morgan raised it to “overweight”,
though it ended the session 0.4 percent lower.

“We believe that the market is too cautious on STMicro,”
wrote European tech analyst Sandeep Deshpande.

Deshpande also said Apple suppliers would have a strong
second half, calling the market too sceptical and predicting the
semiconductor stocks would meet or beat expectations.

In the incipient European earnings season, a strong update
from Danish insurer Tryg pushed it up 3.6 percent to a
two-year high. Berenberg analyst Iain Pearce said a special
dividend could be expected at year-end.

Randstad and Adecco both fell more than 2
percent, targeted by Deutsche Bank in a note on staffing firms.

Analysts at Deutsche cut ratings for the world’s two largest
staffing companies, saying current employment levels in the
United States and Europe were associated with peaking 12-month
investor returns.

British recruitment firm Hays followed its European
peers down 1.6 percent.

(Reporting by Helen Reid and Kit Rees; editing by Mark