European shares cautiously lower ahead of U.S. data

Fri May 3, 2013 4:10am EDT

* FTSEurofirst down 0.46 of a point

* Investors cautious before U.S. jobs data

* RBS hit by earnings

* Hugo Boss knock after Permira sells 10 pct stake

* Adidas rises on record margins

By David Brett

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 before U.S. job data.

By 0735 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 was down 0.46 of a point at 1,206.07. That is close to the March closing high of 1,207.83, which itself was the highest finish since August 2008, and was supported by the European Central Bank's rate cut.

The index, however, 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 United States.

U.S. non-farm payrolls NFPs) data for April, due at 1230 GMT, are expected to show an increase of 145,000 jobs, which would not be 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 accommodative measures from the Federal Reserve, a narrow miss would spark only a limited fall in European equities.

One London-based trader said he would be a small seller of these if the jobs figure came in at 145,000.

German fashion house Hugo Boss slid 5.7 percent after private equity firm Permira sold a further 10 percent stake in the company. Also, Deutsche Bank downgraded Hugo Boss to "hold" from "buy" after first-quarter numbers.

RBS's shares fell 4.1 percent after the state-backed lender reported worse-than-expected operating results, hit by falling revenue at its markets business.

In the current quarter, 59 percent of companies in Europe have missed earnings expectations while the forecasts for the second quarter have been cut by 2.2 percent on average over the last 30 days, according to Thomson Reuters Starmine data.

Germany's Adidas, however, provided a ray of light, its shares rising 6.3 percent after the sports brand posted its highest-ever gross profit margin.

Miners were the main sector gainers early on, rising in tandem with rallying commodities, which were helped by the ECB's attempt to stimulate the economy.

Freshly merged Glencore Xstrata was up 0.5 percent but worries over the economic outlook mean the mining sector continued to trade close to the bottom of its 52-week range.

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