European stock rally stalls; DAX eyes record high

Wed May 14, 2014 4:26am EDT

* FTSEurofirst 300 down 0.1 pct, retreats from 6-year high

* DAX edges up, hovers below record high

* Profit taking hits Portuguese stocks

* Mediaset drops after quarterly loss

By Blaise Robinson

PARIS, May 14 (Reuters) - European shares dipped on Wednesday, pausing after a two-month rally that propelled a number of indexes to multi-year peaks as investors awaited confirmation of further stimulus from the ECB before chasing the market higher.

Shares in Mediaset featured among the biggest losers, down 5.7 percent after the Italian television company posted a net loss in the first quarter.

Compass surged 5 percent after the world's biggest catering firm said it would return 1 billion pounds ($1.68 billion) to shareholders through a special dividend.

At 0750 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was down 0.1 percent at 1,366.93 points, after hitting a six-year high in the previous session. Germany's DAX gained 0.04 percent, hovering just below a record high hit in January.

European stocks have been lifted by expectations of fresh measures from the European Central Bank to keep inflation from staying too low.

Last Thursday, ECB President Mario Draghi said the central bank was ready to take action in June to boost the euro zone economy if updated inflation forecasts merited it, and sources said on Tuesday Germany's Bundesbank was ready to support the ECB, fuelling a rally in equities.

"A majority of investors are bullish, pushing indexes above key psychological levels. All eyes are on inflation data at this point, that's what really matters right now," said Guillaume Dumans, co-head of research firm 2Bremans.

But a number of traders said the recent rally - which has seen the FTSEurofirst 300 rise some 7 percent from lows in March - may soon run out of steam as investors look for an opportunity to cash in on that rise.

Peripheral euro zone markets including Italy and Portugal already experienced a bout of profit taking on Tuesday, following their sharp outperformance since the start of the year. Lisbon's PSI 20 tumbled again on Wednesday, down 2.6 percent.

"For me, it's overdone here, and there's a pullback coming," said Darren Courtney-Cook, head of trading at Central Markets Investment Management.

Europe bourses in 2014: link.reuters.com/pap87v

Asset performance in 2014: link.reuters.com/gap87v

Today's European research round-up

(addintional reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta in London; Editing by John Stonestreet)