European shares fell on Tuesday, after weaker-than-expected U.S. retail sales cast doubt on the strength of the recovery in the world's biggest economy.

German analyst and investor sentiment rising to a level not seen since April helped to limit losses for major indexes.

The FTSEurofirst 300 <.FTEU3> index of top European shares fell 0.2 percent to a provisional close of 1,069.84 points.

Worse-than-expected retail sales data out of the United States forced stocks lower in afternoon European trading and countered much of the support gained from better than expected German ZEW sentiment data, said Joshua Raymond, Chief Market Strategist, City Index commented

U.S. retail sales rose less than expected in January as consumers cut back on car purchases and did less online shopping.

Banks, many of which have significant exposure to peripheral euro zone countries and have taken a hit on their balance sheets following the long-running euro zone debt crisis, were among the biggest losers. The STOXX Europe 600 euro zone Banking Index <.SX7E> fell 1.4 percent.

(Reporting by Brian Gorman)