Defensive dip leads European shares off multi-year high

LONDON Thu May 9, 2013 11:34am EDT

LONDON May 9 (Reuters) - European stocks slipped on Thursday as investors cashed in recent gains in defensive sectors, but found technical support to keep a recent bull market intact and remain near multi-year highs.

The euro zone's Euro STOXX 50 index dropped 0.4 percent to 2,774.96 points, retreating from a near two-year high but finding support at an upwards trendline from lows hit on April 18.

The index is up nearly 10 percent in the past three weeks, and hit its highest point since July 2011 on Wednesday.

"It's natural to have a pull back after the gains we've seen. The fact that we found support to come off the lows suggests that there's still plenty of appetite in the market," Matt Basi, sales trader at CMC Markets, said.

"It's a bull market, and people are quite happy to buy dips."

Utility stocks fell 0.5 percent, the biggest sectoral faller on the STOXX Europe 600, led lower by a 5 percent fall in Italian gas transport company Snam after main shareholder Eni launched a placement at a discount to Wednesday's closing price.

Italy's blue chips lagged regional peers, down 1 percent, with Banca Popolare di Milano the top faller, slumping 8.9 percent on concerns that a plan to transform the cooperative bank into a joint-stock company could be delayed, or even dropped.