European shares cautiously lower ahead of US data

LONDON Fri May 3, 2013 3:09am EDT

LONDON May 3 (Reuters) - European shares held near five-year highs early on Friday as central bank stimulus continued to support equities over other asset classes, but some caution crept in ahead of U.S. job data later in the session.

B 0703 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 was down 0.38 of a points at 1,206.15. That is close to March's closing high of 1,207.83, which itself was the highest finish since August 2008, supported by the European Central Bank interest rate cut on Thursday in an attempt to boost growth.

The index has already sold off from this level twice in 2013 and with investors looking for signs of stable growth equity markets remain vulnerable to setbacks in the U.S. -- to which European corporate derive around a quarter of their earnings.

U.S. non-farm payrolls (NFPs) for April, due at 1230 GMT, are expected to have increased by 145,000 jobs, which would not by enough to counter recent sluggish data.

"The number should certainly be better than last month which was hit by a series of one-offs ... I think NFPs will be shy of 145,000, possibly in the 120,000s," Richard Perry, chief market strategist at Central Markets, said.

Perry said with markets anticipating more accomodative measures from the Federal Reserve, a small miss would spark only a limited fall.

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