European shares steady around 5-year high

Fri Sep 20, 2013 11:28am EDT

* FTSEurofirst 300 down 0.2 percent

* RWE weakens on dividend cut

* Adidas drops on profit warning

* Europe stocks see 3rd best weekly inflow on record -Lipper

By Tricia Wright

LONDON, Sept 20 (Reuters) - European shares retreated on Friday after the boost from the U.S. Federal Reserve's decision to keep its stimulus programme in place for now wore off.

The FTSEurofirst 300 was down 0.2 percent at 1,263.04 points by 1455 GMT, having hit its highest level since mid-2008 in the previous session. It did, however, notch up its third straight week of gains.

The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 was down 0.3 percent at 2,928.48 points.

Germany's No. 2 utility RWE AG was among the biggest losers across Europe, down 3.8 percent, after it slashed its dividend.

Adidas also came under pressure, dropping 2.9 percent after the German sports apparel maker warned on its 2013 profit outlook.

Equity markets took a leg down on Friday after St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard told Bloomberg television that a slowing of asset-purchases in October was possible depending on incoming data.

But analysts say that while a lack of clarity over when U.S. stimulus will be scaled back could unleash volatility into the markets, they remain bullish on European equities given improvements in the global growth picture.

"The end result of everything that (the Fed has) achieved is just to introduce an added source of uncertainty... We are scrambling to put months to the eventual introduction of tapering," Ian Richards, head of equity strategy at Exane BNP Paribas, said.

"I think yesterday's sugar rush was misplaced but ultimately I don't think this materially changes the investment case."

Flows into European equities from U.S.-based funds accelerated in the week ended Sept. 18, according to Lipper data, with the region's stocks enjoying their third-biggest weekly net inflows since Lipper started to track the data in 1992.

"I wouldn't expect that the asset reallocation and the fund flows which have increasingly focused on Europe will retrace or diminish over the coming months," Richards said.

Some technical analysts anticipate some short-term consolidation on the Euro STOXX 50 as it bridges a gap made on Thursday, but from there expect the index to resume the rally which has seen it jump 7.5 percent from late August lows.

Barclays Capital technical analyst Lynnden Branigan reckons the index could drift towards 2,909, the bottom of the gap, in the coming days, but if it follows this with a higher close, there is "room for that trend to extend to the upside".

His immediate target is around 2,955, Thursday's high, and longer term at the May 2011 highs at about 3,000.