* FTSEurofirst 300 falls 0.3 pct to 1,207.16 points
* Euro STOXX 50 dips 0.1 pct to 2,722.90 points
* Late session sell-off knocks back markets
* Traders cite concerns that Apple may post weak results
* STMicro slumps 10.4 pct after posting wider loss
By Sudip Kar-Gupta
LONDON, July 23 (Reuters) - European shares fell on Tuesday as a late sell-off knocked markets off seven-week highs, with semiconductor group STMicroelectronics leading the way after weak results.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index spent much of the day in positive territory, at one stage rising as much as 0.5 percent to a seven-week intraday high of 1,216.36 points.
However, the index then gradually drifted lower to close down 0.3 percent at 1,207.16 points.
STMicro topped the list of FTSEurofirst fallers, tumbling 10.4 percent after the company posted a wider loss.
The euro zone’s blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index also came off its session highs to close down by 0.1 percent at 2,722.90 points. The FTSEurofirst 300 is up 6.5 percent since the start of 2013 while the Euro STOXX 50 is 3.3 percent higher.
Traders said there was no single specific factor behind the sell-off, but several cited investors looking to book profits on the earlier move up in case tech group Apple posted weak results after the close which might then hit stock markets.
“We’ve certainly been consolidating for the last couple of sessions and there’s the potential for Apple’s earnings to disappoint,” said Logic Investments strategy head Peter Rice.
“The risk is for further selling pressure. The likelihood is a continuation of the downward draft,” he added.
The technology sector has already posted disappointing second-quarter earnings this month, and the STOXX Europe 600 Technology Index fell 0.7 percent to make it one of the region’s worst-performing equity sectors.
U.S. bellwethers Microsoft and Google both posted weaker-than-expected results this month while in Europe, German business software maker SAP cut its sales outlook.
However, Andrew Arbuthnott, European equities fund manager at Pioneer Investments, kept a positive view on European shares and said sell-offs in European stock markets would provide investors with a good entry point to buy into them.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index has fallen some 4 percent from a five-year high of 1,258.09 points reached in late May, as markets retreated in June due to expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve will eventually scale back stimulus measures that had driven much of the global equity rally.
“We remain constructive on European equities as an asset class,” said Arbuthnott.
“Every cloud has a silver lining and the recent consolidation in equity markets may provide the entry opportunity equity investors have been looking for.”