European shares briefly turned flat Monday morning, with investors buying up defensive stocks, but the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and a warning from Fitch about possible credit downgrades kept investors on edge.

At 8:46 a.m., the FTSEurofirst 300 <.FTEU3> index of top European shares was down 0.1 percent at 956.30 points after falling to as low as 949.99.

(Reporting by Joanne Frearson)