* FTSEurofirst 300 flat, near 6-year high
* DAX slips 0.1 pct after record high on Wednesday
* Utilities underperform as Citi downgrades some key stocks
By Sudip Kar-Gupta
LONDON, May 29 European shares held firm near
multi-year highs on Thursday, with the region's main stock
markets supported by prospects of new economic stimulus measures
next week from the European Central Bank (ECB).
Utility stocks underperformed after Citigroup cut its rating
on some southern European utility stocks, such as Enel
, due to the prospect that regulatory pressures and
increasing competition could impact earnings.
Citigroup's downgrades led to a 0.5 percent fall in the
STOXX Europe 600 Utilities Index, compared with a flat
performance on the broader STOXX 600 index. The
utilities index has risen 13 percent since the start of 2014,
making it one of the top-performing sectors.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index was also
flat at 1,377.89 points in early session trading, hovering close
to a near 6-year high of 1,380.52 points reached earlier this
Germany's DAX, which hit a record high of 9,957.87
points on Wednesday, slipped 0.1 percent to 9,926.22 points
while France's CAC declined 0.3 percent to 4,520.32
"The trend is up, the trend's your friend, but I wouldn't
buy up at these levels," Darren Courtney-Cook, head of trading
at Central Markets Investment Management, said. Courtney-Cook
said he would prefer to wait for pullbacks before buying DAX
Expectations that ECB head Mario Draghi may cut interest
rates or introduce other monetary policy measures next week to
help Europe's economy have enabled the region's stock markets to
maintain a broad, upwards trajectory since the start of 2014.
The FTSEurofirst 300 is up by around 5 percent since the
start of 2014, while the DAX and CAC have risen between 4-5
Naeem Aslam, Ava Trade chief market analyst, said the
majority of investors were still buying up equities on
expectations of new ECB monetary policy measures next week, but
cautioned that the outcome of the ECB's meeting may not be as
clear-cut as some think.
"The optimism is just on the back of the hopes that the ECB
is ready to take action to fight deflation and boost the economy
and traders are waiting for Mr Draghi to open the gates for
further easing of monetary policy," Aslam said.
"But make no mistake, this is not going to be this easy as
many are thinking," he said, referring to opposition to cutting
rates that Draghi could face in some quarters of the ECB.
Europe bourses in 2014: link.reuters.com/pap87v
Asset performance in 2014: link.reuters.com/gap87v
Today's European research round-up
(Editing by Jane Merriman)