European equities steady, DAX touches record high

Thu May 15, 2014 6:34am EDT

* FTSEurofirst 300 flat after setting 6-year highs

* Strong results from Richemont prop up market

By Sudip Kar-Gupta

LONDON, May 15 (Reuters) - European stock markets steadied near multi-year highs on Thursday, with Germany's DAX touching a record peak as solid earnings from leading companies including Richemont propped up equities.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index was flat at 1,367.88 points in mid-session trading, hovering just below a 6-year high of 1,372.81 points reached earlier in the day.

Germany's DAX hit a record high of 9,810.29 points before edging back to trade flat at 9,757.03 points, while the euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index dipped 0.2 percent to 3,205.16 points.

A 5.2 percent rise at Swiss luxury goods company Richemont added the most points to the FTSEurofirst 300, after it reported solid sales growth and announced a dividend hike and share buyback.

Over the past week, European stock markets have also been boosted by increasing signs the European Central Bank (ECB) will cut rates and announce other stimulus measures in June.

"It looks as if they will adjust interest rates, and that should keep equity markets supported," said Berkeley Futures associate director Richard Griffiths.

Griffiths said the DAX could hit 10,000 points by the end of June, and advocated buying the German market on days when it fell.

Other investors pointed to mixed European economic data on Thursday as highlighting the risk of a volatile stock market environment over the coming months.

On Thursday, data showed that while Germany posted strong economic growth in the first quarter, France's economy flatlined and Italy's went into reverse.

"This morning's unexpectedly weak eurozone GDP figure prompts fresh fears for the area's recovery," said Saxo Capital Markets UK chief executive officer Torben Kaaber.

"My view is that the ECB will eventually need to go ahead with a stimulus package which will include interest rate cuts, but it may be too little, too late," he added.

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

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

Today's European research round-up (Additional reporting by Blaise Robinson and Francesco Canepa; Editing by Larry King, John Stonestreet)