[PARIS] European shares dipped in early trading on Monday, halting their recent sharp rally, following poor economic figures from China.
Shares in Norwegian seismic oil and gas explorer TGS sank 10.6 per cent after it cut its full-year revenue guidance and said it would lay off a tenth of its workforce.
At 0728 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was down 0.3 per cent at 1,640.83 points.
Data showed that China's export sales contracted 15 per cent in March while import shipments fell at their sharpest rate since the 2009 global financial crisis, a shock outcome that deepens concern about sputtering Chinese economic growth.
"The export-based economy is in a process of structural changes and most of the efforts are focused on the consumption, and given that the numbers released today are appalling, you want to ask if global growth slowdown is casting its shadow,"said Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at Ava Trade in Dublin.
Shares in resource-related companies featured among the top losers, with BHP Billiton down 3.3 per cent, Rio Tinto down 2.7 per cent and Anglo American down 2.9 per cent.
Citigroup downgraded its rating on the metals and mining sector to 'neutral', citing the outlook for iron ore prices.
Citigroup analysts wrote in a note that iron ore will fall to $36 a tonne in the third quarter and stay below $40 for the rest of the year as big miners boost supply even further and China's demand declines.
Iron ore prices for future delivery have slid 30 per cent in the space of a month, and the outlook for the commodity is now more bearish than oil and more dire than ever for miners struggling to just stay in business.
Around Europe, UK's FTSE 100 index was down 0.2 per cent, Germany's DAX index down 0.3 per cent, and France's CAC 40 down 0.1 per cent.
Volkswagen fell 1.6 per cent as the German carmaker plunged into a full-blown leadership crisis after Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn let it be known on Saturday he will fight for his job even though the carmaker's chairman has reportedly withdrawn confidence in the CEO.
Bucking the trend, shares in Sydbank rose 5.8 per cent after the group unveiled a share buyback programme.