* FTSEurofirst 300 index gains 0.2 percent
* Italy outperforms as bond yields fall
* Caution ahead of Ukraine, EU election results
(Updates with closing prices and no other changes to text)
By Alistair Smout
EDINBURGH, May 23 French real-estate firm Gecina
bucked the trend of low volumes in European share trading on
Friday, as investors generally steered clear of big bets before
a long weekend in Britain and elections in Ukraine and across
the European Union.
Gecina fell 1.3 percent in volumes nearly four
times its 90-day average after a share placing worth roughly 1
percent of share capital.
The real-estate investment trust was one of the most heavily
traded stock relative to its 90-day average on the FTSEurofirst
300, which saw trade across the index at a mere 75
percent of its average.
Some analysts had warned that the EU's marathon
parliamentary election, which ends on Sunday, could worry
investors if strong performances by eurosceptic parties
undermined governments' efforts to move towards greater
But the prospect of the vote only affected share prices
marginally on Friday, traders said.
Italian stocks gained 1.8 percent, the top performing index
in Europe, with banks benefiting from lower sovereign bond
yields despite uncertainty over the vote.
"It would need an extraordinary negative result to change a
view of Europe where everything has been recovering recently.
The bond market hasn't taken fright, and that's an indicator
that equity markets will be supported," said Veronika Pechlaner,
who helps manage $13 billion of assets at Ashburton Investments.
"The elections are having an effect only at the margin."
Britain's FTSE 100 mildly underperformed, down 0.1
percent, after its anti-EU UKIP party made strong gains in local
Dutch blue-chips slightly outperformed after an 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 in the Netherlands.
"Volumes are very low at the moment going into Bank Holiday
weekend. The results we have seen to date in the elections are
not a huge surprise, and have not led to any change in my view
on the markets," Neil Wilkinson, European equities fund manager
at Royal London Asset Management, said.
At the close, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top
European shares was up 0.2 percent at 1,369.17 points after
closing 0.1 percent higher in the previous session. The index
climbed to 1,372.81 on May 15, its highest since 2008.
Russian shares came under pressure as tensions were high in
Ukraine, where more than a dozen servicemen were reported killed
on Thursday in a clash with pro-Russian separatists. Ukraine
votes on Sunday in a presidential election.
Volumes in Russia-exposed stocks, such as Renault,
Raiffeisen Bank and Carlsberg, were
Europe bourses in 2014: link.reuters.com/pap87v
Asset performance in 2014: link.reuters.com/gap87v
Today's European research round-up
(Editing by Mark Trevelyan)