European shares retreated in thin late morning trade on Wednesday, with traders pointing to comments by ratings agency Fitch urging the European Central Bank to ramp up buying of euro zone debt to prevent a "cataclysmic" collapse of the euro.
David Riley, the head of sovereign ratings for Fitch, said while a collapse of the euro is not Fitch's baseline scenario, it could happen if Italy did not find a way out of its debt problems.
"Investors don't like adjectives like cataclysmic," Michael Hewson, market analyst at CMC Markets.
At 1151 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was 0.7 percent lower at 1020.40 points after touching a high of 1,029.32, the highest since early August earlier in the day.
"The breakout failure of the 1,028 resistance threshold calls for a consolidation move," Nicolas Suiffet, a technical analyst at Trading Central, said.