* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.1 pct, near six-year high
* DAX flat after record high on Wednesday
* Utilities underperform as Citi downgrades some stocks
By Tricia Wright and Sudip Kar-Gupta
LONDON, May 29 European shares held near
multi-year highs on Thursday, with the region's main stock
markets supported by prospects of new economic stimulus next
week from the European Central Bank.
Utility stocks underperformed after Citigroup cut its
ratings on some southern European stocks in the sector, such as
Enel. Regulatory pressures and increasing competition
could affect the companies' earnings, the bank said.
Citigroup's downgrades led to a 0.2 percent decline by the
STOXX Europe 600 Utilities Index, compared with a 0.1
percent rise on the broader STOXX 600 index. The
utilities index has risen about 13 percent since the start of
2014, making it one of the top-performing sectors.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index closed up
0.1 percent at 1,379.05 points, within a whisker of a near
six-year high of 1,380.52 points that it reached this week.
Germany's DAX was flat at 9,938.90 points after
rising to a record high of 9,957.87 points on Wednesday.
France's CAC was flat at 4,530.51 points.
"The trend is up, the trend's your friend, but I wouldn't
buy up at these levels," said Darren Courtney-Cook, head of
trading at Central Markets Investment Management. He said he
would prefer to wait for pullbacks before buying DAX futures
Expectations that European Central Bank head Mario Draghi
will cut interest rates or introduce other measures next week to
stop inflation falling too low and help the 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 about 5 percent since the
start of 2014, while the DAX and CAC have risen by about 4-5
Naeem Aslam, Ava Trade's chief market analyst, said the
majority of investors were still buying equities on expectations
of an ECB move, but he warned that the outcome of the bank's
meeting may not be as clear-cut as some think.
"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 as easy as
many are thinking," he said, referring to opposition to cutting
rates that Draghi could face from some fellow policymakers.
Europe bourses in 2014: link.reuters.com/pap87v
Asset performance in 2014: link.reuters.com/gap87v
Today's European research round-up
(Editing by Ruth Pitchford)