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European stocks slip ahead of data deluge, UK shares lag

European stocks slipped from all-time highs on Thursday, as investors awaited U.S. economic data to gauge the future path of monetary policy, while rating actions and ex-dividend trading knocked UK shares lower.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index was down 0.2%, with miners and utilities leading the decliners.

A host of British companies, including National Grid (LON:NG) and Kingfisher (LON:KGF), traded without entitlement for dividend, pulling UK's FTSE 100 0.7% lower.

Global stocks took a step back ahead of the closely watched U.S. jobs data on Friday, which could give fresh clues on the pace of recovery and inflationary pressures building in the economy that could lead the Federal Reserve to pare back its support.

Edward Park, chief investment officer at asset manager Brooks Macdonald, said while a strong data could spur worries about rate hikes, a weak number could highlight labour shortages and supply-chain issues that have been at the forefront of investors' minds.

"The markets will require a Goldilocks U.S. jobs report to hold on to the all-time highs," said Park.

After a record expansion in euro zone factory activity, IHS Markit's final reading showed the bloc's dominant service sector sprang back into life last month as restrictions eased.

An index covering the service industry soared to a near three-year high of 55.2 from 50.5, just beating the 55.1 flash estimate.

Solid earnings, massive stimulus programmes and a pick-up in the pace of COVID-19 vaccination have helped pushed the STOXX 600 up 12.9% so far this year, while Wall Street's S&P 500 has climbed 12%.

French spirits group Remy Cointreau slipped 1.8% after hitting a record high as it topped estimates for full-year operating profit growth and handed investors an 85% dividend hike.

Construction materials group Saint-Gobain gained 3.9% after forecasting record operating income and margin in the first half of the year.

Britain's biggest telecom group BT group slipped 2.9% after Deutsche Bank (DE:DBKGn) downgraded the stock to "sell", saying it is overvalued.

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