* FTSEurofirst 300 down 0.2 pct, in sight of five-year highs
* Euro zone P/E low vs global peers, but above 10-year
* Commerzbank shareholders ready for share issue
By Toni Vorobyova
LONDON, May 13 European shares edged off
five-year highs on Monday, with renewed concerns about ongoing
problems facing banks sparking a wave of profit-taking in the
second best-performing sector of the past month.
An upcoming rights issues at Germany's Commerzbank
, which is expected to be at a steep discount, and
bearish comments about Standard Chartered from
influential short-selling firm Muddy Waters pushed the STOXX
Europe 600 Banking sector 1.3 percent lower.
But losses in the broader market were limited, with
investors seeking to take profits on the recent gains partly
offset by those looking for buying opportunities on any dips.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index closed 0.2 percent lower at
1,230.12 points, not far off a five-year high of 1,231.05 points
hit on Friday.
"They've had a strong few weeks but if you look at Europe
relative to the other major equity markets, like U.S. and Japan,
they remain the laggards, so I don't think there is too much
exuberance built into the markets," said James Buckley, head of
European equities at Baring Asset Management, who is overweight
on financials and healthcare.
Others were less upbeat on the region. Stewart Richardson,
partner and CIO at RMG, said that while central bank stimulus
may prevent a near term slump in European equities, they are
likely to keep underperforming global peers.
"Europe is in recession, the revenue outlook from the recent
reporting season has been disappointing and we struggle to see
where the growth is coming from in the next quarter to two to
three," he said.
Valuations offer a mixed picture. On the one hand, euro zone
blue-chips look cheap in absolute terms, trading on just 15.5
times earnings, against Dow Jones Industrials on
16.4 times and Japan's Nikkei at 24.5 times,
according to Thomson Reuters StarMine. However, the euro zone is
the only one of the three main markets looking expensive
relative to the average of the past 10 years.
Among individual stocks on Friday, Commerzbank was the
biggest faller, down 4.7 percent ahead of a 2.5 billion euro
($3.24 billion)share sale.
"To succeed, the rights issue needs to be at the biggest
discount that the government will tolerate, the placing needs to
be done with clear headroom over the rights subscription price,
and needs to be covered well enough that the stock trades well
in the aftermath," Simon Maughan, head of research at Olivetree,
said in a note.
"The shorts must be persuaded to cover and even if they all
do, new money still has to be found to come in and take placing
stock, as well as existing holders take up their rights.
"No doubt there is a way through this maze, but it certainly
won't be easy."