European shares steady, focus on EU, Ukraine elections

LONDON Fri May 23, 2014 3:15am EDT

LONDON May 23 (Reuters) - European shares steadied near last week's six-year highs on Friday, with investors trading cautiously ahead of Ukrainian and European election results.

At 0709 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was flat at 1,366.25 points after closing 0.1 percent higher in the previous session.

Investors kept a close eye on Ukraine, where more than a dozen servicemen were reported killed on Thursday in a clash with pro-Russian separatists, fuelling security concerns ahead of Sunday's presidential election, seen as crucial for its fragile democracy.

The EU's marathon parliamentary election was also in focus. Polling kicked off on Thursday when Britain and the Netherlands voted, with right-wing, anti-EU parties expected to attract a surge of protest votes in many countries.

Britain's anti-EU UKIP party made strong gains in local elections, according to early results on Friday, while a Dutch exit poll for the EU elections indicated that the anti-Islam, Eurosceptic Freedom Party had fallen well short of its goal of topping the poll.

Analysts said there were concerns the EU elections could destabilise some euro zone governments at home. In Italy, for example, a poor result for Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's party could weaken his drive for swift reforms that he promised when he took power. (Reporting by Atul Prakash; Editing by Lionel Laurent)

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