Europe shares hit near 6-month lows in strong volumes

PARIS (Reuters) - European shares tumbled on Friday in strong volumes, hitting near six-month lows, as concerns over the prospect of reduced United States monetary stimulus continued to rock financial markets worldwide.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares provisionally ended 0.7 per cent lower at 1,136.38 points, a level not seen since early January.

Trading volume was brisk, boosted by the expiry of monthly and quarterly options and futures, which exacerbated volatility during the session.

"We're at a turning point, and it has come earlier than what investors had expected. Liquidity has now become the major focus for markets," said Mr Roland Kaloyan, a global asset allocation strategist at Societe Generale CIB.

European stocks started to tumble on Thursday after US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke confirmed the Fed would begin winding down its quantitative easing programme later this year, fuelling a sell-off in equities around the world as well as in fixed income markets and commodities.

On the week, the FTSEurofirst 300 dropped 3.4 per cent, the index's biggest weekly loss in more than a year.

Tech shares were among the hardest hit, with German business software maker SAP down 2.9 per cent after US rival Oracle posted worse-than-expected revenues for the second quarter in a row.