FRANKFURT (dpa-AFX) - In a comparison of European insurers' shares by the US bank Citigroup, Allianz shares lost out on Tuesday. Analyst James Shuck downgraded Allianz shares from "Buy" to "Hold" and at the same time placed the shares of Italian Generali ("Buy") on the "Focus List" of recommendations.

The removal of the "buy" recommendation caused Allianz shares to fall by 2.8 percent in the morning. However, Generali shares were also unable to escape the general downward trend in the European insurance sector. They fell by 0.6 percent. The shares of the French Axa, which Shuck also favors over Allianz and the Swiss Zurich, also lost 1.2 percent.

There are clear signs that insurers with multiple lines of business are actively managing their capital base to increase shareholder returns, Shuck wrote in a sector study. He reassessed several criteria, including debt and cash flow. On balance, he now favors Generali and Axa over Allianz and Zurich. He expects more flexibility on the capital side from the Italians and French in the coming years.

At the beginning of April, Europe's insurance sector had reached its highest level since 2001 at 386 points. This was followed by a setback to 360 points. The sub-index then rose again in May, but ultimately remained just below the April high. A breakout above 386 points should improve the sector's technical situation even further./bek/ag/jha/