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Europe: Shares fall in early trading

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[LONDON] European shares fell in early deals on Wednesday, dragged lower by healthcare and utilities stocks, though upbeat results from a British housebuilder and support from mining firms helped limit losses.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index was down 0.3 per cent, extending losses from the previous session, while blue chips also fell 0.3 per cent.

British housebuilder Persimmon was the biggest STOXX gainer, jumping around 3.4 per cent following an upbeat trading statement, in which it reported a 7 per cent rise in first-half sales with the market unaffected by the UK's June general election.

Shares in peer Barratt Developments also gained 2.4 per cent, while Britain's blue chip FTSE 100, which outperformed the broader European market, gained 0.1 per cent.

Online supermarket Ocado also rose 1.7 per cent after it said that it expected the last month's international deal to be the first of many as it reported its half year earnings.

Gains among mining firms such as Glencore, which rose 2.6 per cent, also helped support UK shares, with BHP Billiton in tow as Chinese rebar futures rallied.

Credit Suisse upgraded the mining sector to "overweight" in its latest global equity strategy update, seeing the sector as a more rewarding play on higher oil prices, interest rates and inflation.

Healthcare stocks were led lower by GlaxoSmithKline, which fell after a downgrade from Citigroup to "neutral" from "buy".