GLOBAL MARKETS-Stocks slip off their multi-year highs

Thu May 9, 2013 8:45am EDT

* Upbeat economic data, central banks support shares

* Wall Street seen softer at open

* UK central bank leaves policy unchanged as expected

* Oil dips on ample supplies

By Richard Hubbard

LONDON, May 9 (Reuters) - Investors pulled some profits from soaring European and Japanese shares on Thursday, although a run of relatively upbeat economic data and ongoing support from central banks kept equities near multi-year highs.

U.S. stock futures also slipped suggesting a subdued Wall Street open where this week's rally has taken the Standard & Poor's 500 Index and the Dow Jones industrial average to all time highs.

Oil prices dipped on a combination of weaker demand and rising supplies, while the dollar trimmed some of its losses both against the euro and yen after weekly jobless claims fell.

Europe's broad FTSE Eurofirst 300 index slipped from a near five-year high to be down 0.1 percent. Germany's DAX and Britain's FTSE 100 was flat.

Robust German factory activity and China's stronger than expected trade performance have boosted investor sentiment this week with the mood enhanced by data showing strong UK industrial output in March and jobs growth in Australia and New Zealand.

However, the data hasn't been strong enough to spark any concerns about the current flow of cash from major central banks, which has been behind a rally across the markets.

"Growing evidence of economic revival, including the U.S. employment figures last Friday, have given us a three month sweet patch here where stocks could add another 10 or 15 percent," said Nick Beecroft, senior market analyst at Saxo Capital Markets.

Beecroft said the three months covered the run up to the German elections in September, which were likely to be next watershed event for financial markets.

The MSCI world index, which tracks stocks in 45 countries, was down 0.15 percent on Thursday but not far from the five-year highs hit this week, driven mainly by the loose monetary policies of the world's big central banks.

Earlier MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edged up 0.1 percent despite data showing China's annual consumer inflation rising more than expected in April and its factory prices falling.

BOE HOLDS

The euro fell against the British pound when the Bank of England, as expected, kept interest rates on hold and left its asset buying programme unchanged at its latest policy meeting.

Britain's central bank held off from any further easing in policy after a string of improving economic numbers pointed to a pick up in growth during the second quarter.

"Despite the recent improved news on the UK economy, we believe it is still more a question of when the Bank of England will pull the quantitative easing trigger again, Howard Archer, chief European and UK economist at IHS Global Insight, said.

Britain also reported that industrial output rose a more-than-expected 1.1 percent in March though it was down on the year ago level.

Spanish bond yields rose on speculation Madrid may be planning another bond sale after borrowing costs fell at Thursday's auction of just over 4.5 billion euros of new debt.

The country's 10-year bond yields were 8 basis points higher at 4.19 percent, and have moved away from the 2-1/2 year lows of 3.95 percent touched last week when the ECB cut rates and said it would consider further policy easing.

OIL FLUSH

In the oil market Brent crude fell below $104 a barrel . Worries about future demand and signs of rising supplies pointed to a growing surplus of fuel worldwide.

"Oil supply is improving and demand growth is not as rapid as expected," said Natixis oil analyst Abhishek Deshpande.

The ample supply was highlighted on Wednesday by EIA data showing U.S. commercial stockpiles of crude hit 395.5 million barrels in the week to May 3, the highest level since the government agency began records in 1982.

U.S. crude futures fell 0.8 percent at $95.84 a barrel and Brent was down 0.6 percent at $103.70.