Europe shares slide on N.Korea shelling, Ireland

* FTSEurofirst 300 down 0.5 pct after hitting 3-week low

* Korean shelling, Irish condition add to market jitters

* Banks, miners feature among top decliners

* For up-to-the-minute market news, click on [STXNEWS/EU]

By Atul Prakash

LONDON, Nov 23 (BestGrowthStock) – European shares hit their lowest
in more than three weeks on Tuesday on reports that North Korea
fired dozens of artillery shells at a South Korean island, with
Ireland’s financial and political turmoil adding to market woes.

The FTSEurofirst 300 (.FTEU3: ) index of top European shares
fell for a third straight session and was down 0.5 percent at
1,088.26 points at 0923 GMT. The benchmark index is up just 4
percent this year after rising 26 percent in 2009.

Miners featured among the top losers, tracking a sharp
decline in metals prices on tensions in the Korean peninsula.
The STOXX Europe basic resources index (.SXPP: ) fell 1.2 percent,
while BHP Billiton (BLT.L: ), Antofagasta (ANTO.L: ) and Xstrata
(XTA.L: ) fell 1.3 to 2 percent.

Appetite for risky assets fell, with the VDAX-NEW volatility
index (.V1XI: ) rising 4 percent. The higher the index, which is
based on sell and buy options on Frankfurt’s top-30 stocks
(0#.GDAXI: ), the lower the market’s desire to take risk.

“There is a cocktail of concerns keeping investors occupied
and Korea and Ireland are ahead in the list,” said Keith Bowman,
equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

“Asia is very much seen as the growth region. The one thing
the markets don’t want to see is any sort of war going on in
that region.”

Seoul’s military and media reports said artillery shelling
by North Korea at the South Korean island set buildings on fire
and prompted a return of fire by the South. A witness said that
residents of the island had been evacuated. [ID:nTOE6AM01Q]

“Given the current macro background, an escalation in
tension in Korea is the last thing the market needs,” a
London-based trader said.

BANKS SLIDE

Financial stocks fell as investors stayed concerned about
the situation in Ireland, which began two weeks of political
manoeuvring as the government dares the opposition to block an
austerity budget on which a multi-billion euro EU/IMF bailout is
riding. [ID:nLDE6AL2AG]

The STOXX Europe 600 banking index (.SX7P: ) fell 1.4 percent,
while Bank of Ireland (BKIR.I: ) slipped 17.7 percent, Allied
Irish Banks fell 14 percent and Bankinter (BKT.MC: ) dropped 2
percent.

The markets are not convinced that aid to Ireland would
prevent some other heavily indebted EU members from seeking
help. Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen defied mounting pressure
to quit, saying he would stay in office until parliament passed
the budget, then call an early election.

“There are a lot of concerns that we will see some spread of
the problem. All eyes seem to have moved to Portugal. I can’t
see those nerves dissipating in the near term,” Bowman said.

Across Europe, the FTSE 100 (.FTSE: ), Germany’s DAX (.GDAXI: ),
France’s CAC 40 (.FCHI: ), Ireland’s ISEQ (.ISEQ: ), Spain’s IBEX
(.IBEX: ), Portugal’s PSI 20 (.PSI20: ) and Italy’s FTSE MIB
(.FTMIB: ) fell 0.1 to 1.8 percent. The Thomson Reuters Peripheral
Eurozone Countries Index (.TRXFLDPIPU: ) was down 0.7 percent.

<^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ TAKE A LOOK- Europe's debt problems [ID:nLDE68T0MG] Euro zone debt struggle graphic http://r.reuters.com/hyb65p Multimedia on euro zone Crisis http://r.reuters.com/hus75h Analysis of risk to Portugal [ID:nLDE6AL04W] Breakingviews column [ID:nN22282592] ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^>

France’s Zodiac Aerospace (ZODC.PA: ) fell 1.7 percent after
it reported a 14 percent drop in full-year net profit and
pledged to make further acquisitions after fending off a bid
from Safran (SAF.PA: ). [ID:nLDE6AL1OF]

“Results are good, but nothing spectacular. The speculative
froth has gone away and people continue to book profits. Bear in
mind the stock was up some 85 pct on the year before Safran
backtracked,” a Paris-based trader said.
(Additional reporting by Blaise Robinson in Paris; Editing by
Jon Loades-Carter)

Europe shares slide on N.Korea shelling, Ireland