Euro zone worries limit gains for European stocks
* FTSEurofirst 300 and Euro STOXX 50 both rise 0.1 pct
* Persistent worries over euro zone crisis limit gains
* Heineken among top performers after broker upgrades
* Some investors say central bank action already priced in
By Sudip Kar-Gupta
LONDON, Aug 23 (Reuters) - European shares rose on Thursday, helped by gains at Dutch beer company Heineken and expectations of new stimulus measures from central banks, although persistent worries over the euro zone debt crisis limited stocks' rise.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index rose 0.1 percent to 1,096.99 points, while the Euro STOXX 50 also edged higher by 0.1 percent to 2,455.92 points.
Both benchmark indexes were below intraday highs reached earlier in the day, as traders used fresh signs of problems in the euro zone economy to err on the side of caution by selling shares to book short-term profits.
Markit's Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) on Thursday suggested the euro zone looked destined for its second recession in three years, with the economic rot even spreading through Germany, the region's largest and strongest economy.
Economic weakness is making it even harder for struggling euro zone states to cut their high debt levels.
"Our view is that the upside (in stocks) remains limited," said Central Markets senior broker Joe Neighbour.
Neighbour backed selling Germany's benchmark DAX index, which was up 0.2 percent at 7,033.96 points, at the 7,090 level, and selling Euro STOXX futures, which were 0.1 percent higher at 2,457 points, when they reached 2,495 points.
STIMULUS PRICED IN?
Heineken rose 2.4 percent, making it one of the best-performing stocks on the FTSEurofirst 300 index, as it benefited from a wave of upgrades from brokers.
The brewer reported on Wednesday a 4 percent fall in first-half net profit but it also forecast a better second half. SocGen raised its rating on Heineken to "buy" from "hold", saying Heineken should eventually benefit from its planned acquisition of Asia Pacific Breweries.
Equity markets have rallied since late July, when European Central Bank head Mario Draghi pledged to do "whatever it takes" to protect the euro, which suggested the ECB was preparing new stimulus measures, such as a fresh round of buying government bonds, to tackle the region's debt crisis.
Minutes from the latest Fed meeting, released on Wednesday after European markets closed, also showed the U.S. central bank was likely to deliver another round of monetary stimulus "fairly soon" unless the economy improved considerably.
However, some traders said equity markets had already factored in new central bank stimulus measures, with some investors now focusing again on the underlying problems within the euro zone.
"So much has already been priced into the market. People are starting to take a stand-back stance, which could induce a consolidation and small sell-off of some 5 percent," said Francois Savary, chief investment officer at Swiss bank Reyl.
Savary said Reyl had increased its exposure to European equities from May onwards, but had since taken profits on some of its equity holdings.
"I believe most of the rally has been done for this year," he said.
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