European shares dented by earnings, weak U.S. data
* FTSEurofirst 300 down 0.21 point
* Euro STOXX 50 falls 0.1 percent
* Zurich Insurance down on Q1 results miss
* U.S. jobless claims rise, housing starts drop
By Tricia Wright
LONDON, May 16 (Reuters) - European shares ended a touch lower on Thursday, pegged back by downbeat earnings news and U.S. data, although some analysts expect the market to resume its grind higher.
The FTSEurofirst 300 closed down 0.21 point at 1,245.45, with heavyweight Swiss insurer Zurich off 3.3 percent after a 7 percent drop in first-quarter net profit.
Concerns about the global economy were heightened by weak data on the U.S. labour and housing markets.
Even so, confidence remains high in central banks' ability to keep pumping money to nurse their economies back to health.
That has helped the FTSEurofirst 300 to rise around 10 percent in 2013, taking it to levels last seen in June 2008.
"The economic data is weak, the earnings figures aren't great, so one has to assume that investors are thinking more positively about the future," Andrew Milligan, head of global strategy at Standard Life Investments, said.
Milligan said that markets are buying into the idea that a deceleration in global activity should begin to turn around "with a consequent improvement in profits in due course".
Standard Life Investments has 179.1 billion pounds ($274 billion) of assets under management.
National Grid weighed on the utilities sector , shedding 1.1 percent, as traders cited concerns over the sustainability of the company's dividend policy and earnings after the British energy distributor's results.
Liberum said consensus earnings expectations for 2014 for National Grid remain at risk, even though it has beaten forecasts in the current year.
The Euro STOXX 50, meanwhile, closed down 2.88 points, or 0.1 percent, at 2,806.70.
While technical momentum indicators such as the relative strength index show the Euro STOXX 50 is starting to looking stretched, analysts see scope for more gains as investors continue to plump for equities over bonds due to better returns.
"At some point we are going to get a reasonable pull-back but... that would simply be a minor pull-back in an ongoing uptrend," Bill McNamara, technical analyst at Charles Stanley, said.
McNamara targeted 2,875, a closing peak hit on July 1 2011, in the next two to three weeks.
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