* FTSEurofirst 300 down 0.1 pct, Euro STOXX 50 down 0.5 pct
* Investors book recent lofty gains on defensive sectors
* Sanofi turns ex-dividend, weighs on France's CAC 40
By Blaise Robinson
PARIS, May 9 European stock investors cashed in
on recent lofty gains on defensive sectors such as pharma and
utilities on Thursday, knocking shares from multi-year highs.
Bucking the trend, Spanish oil group Repsol rose
1.2 percent, lifted by results showing a forecast-beating 47
percent jump in adjusted net profit.
At 0745 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top
European shares was down 0.1 percent at 1,228.03 points,
slipping from a near five-year high hit on Wednesday, while the
euro zone's Euro STOXX 50 index was down 0.5 percent
at 2,771.87 points, retreating from a near two-year high.
Technical momentum indicators have been signalling that the
two benchmark indexes were ripe for a retreat.
"We're seeing excessive optimism, with more and more retail
investors turning bullish, which is never a good sign," said
Guillaume Dumans, co-ahead of 2Bremans, a Paris-based research
firm using behavioural finance to monitor investor sentiment.
Pharmaceutical stocks edged lower, taking a breather after
the sector surged more than 20 percent in the past six months.
AstraZeneca fell 0.5 percent while Sanofi
fell 1.2 percent as it was going ex-dividend on Thursday, after
which investors will no longer qualify for the latest dividend.
The drop in shares of Sanofi, Paris's biggest stock by
market capitalisation, weighed on the CAC 40, which was
down 0.7 percent.
Other defensive stocks also retreated, with German utility
E.ON losing 0.9 percent and UK telecom operator
Vodafone down 0.5 percent.
The FTSEurofirst 300 and the Euro STOXX 50 have risen about
7 and 9 percent respectively over the past three weeks on the
back of strong support from central banks.
"The mood seems quite positive, and we're seeing inflows
into equities mostly due to the strong liquidity, but with no
visibility on the macro front and no signal that Europe might be
turning the corner in the next 9 to 12 months, this rally is
fragile," a Paris-based equity trader said.
Volume may be lighter than usual. Swiss, Austrian and Nordic
markets are shut for national holidays.