European shares stall near peaks, await Fed reassurance

Tue May 21, 2013 12:35pm EDT

* Euro STOXX 50 falls 0.1 pct

* Charts show scope for EuroSTOXX pullback towards 2,745

* Nomura recommends hedge on long equity bets

By Toni Vorobyova

LONDON, May 21 (Reuters) - European shares stalled around multi-year peaks on Tuesday, bolstered by a crop of upbeat corporate reports but pinned back by concerns about a possible end to the U.S. Federal Reserve remains committed to stimulus policies.

Such stimulus by global central banks - including asset purchases and ultra low interest rates - has been the key driver of equity market gains over the past year.

Thus, markets have been unsettled by growing talk from some Fed officials - such as Chicago Fed President Charles Evans overnight - that bond buying could end in coming months. The focus is now on Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, due to speak on Wednesday, to clarify the official policy.

"The reaction lower that we've seen today reflects these (Fed) comments," said Myrto Sokou, analyst at Sucden Financial.

"Following the high levels that we had recently ... there is a modest correction lower in European equities ahead of the Fed tomorrow, with the main focus on Bernanke."

The Euro STOXX 50 index of euro zone blue chips fell 0.1 percent to 2,821.65 points, with charts backing the case for a retreat with a 'hanging man' pattern - a significant early sell-off followed by a recovery to around opening levels.

"The EuroSTOXX 50 has been trading within a bullish channel since June-2012 ... This movement is going too high too fast: the stochastic oscillator is overbought. And yesterday's daily candlestick is a hanging man. Hence, a pull-back towards 2,745 points is the most likely scenario," said David Furcajg, technical analyst at 3rd Wave Consult.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 finished 0.1 percent higher at 1,253.22 points, getting a late session boost from gains on Wall Street.

Analysts at Nomura said they still expect more gains, but reckon the path higher will not be a smooth one, recommending a 50 percent dollar hedge via a short position on EuroSTOXX futures with a time horizon of around one month.

Others, meanwhile, recommended looking for future gains away from the recent top performers like food and beverage.

"My personal preference is not to chase sectors that are priced for perfection, because if they disappoint even slightly they will be punished," said Rohini Rathour, fund manager at Sarasin & Partners. On the other hand, "when you have so little expectation from a sector or a company it makes a massive difference when they surprise on the upside, and Marks and Spencer is the poster child of that".

The British retailer added 6.2 percent, the top gainer on FTSEurofirst 300, as profits fell less than expected and results showed some signs of a turnaround to come. Strong results also helped Burberry, while outsourcing firm Capita rallied after a big contract win.

Others though continued to suffer. Cruise operator Carnival tumbled 5.9 percent after downgrading outlook yet again. So far, some 57 percent of European companies have missed first quarter earnings expectations, according to StarMine data.

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