* FTSEurofirst 300 down 0.1 pct, Euro STOXX falls 0.2 pct
* Concerns over end to QE halts equity market rally
* Traders remain bullish on long-term
By Sudip Kar-Gupta
LONDON, May 21 (Reuters) - European shares fell from multi-year highs on Tuesday, with the UK market having hit a near 13-year peak this week, as concerns over a possible end to central bank stimulus measures halted the region’s equity rally.
Still, most traders and investors felt any pull-back on European equity markets would be relatively brief before stock markets resume their rise towards the end of the year.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index, which has hit five-year highs this month, slipped 0.1 percent to 1,250.83 points while the euro zone’s blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index declined 0.2 percent to 2,819.99 points.
Swiss hearing aid maker Sonova was among the worst-performing stocks on the FTSEurofirst 300, falling 4.3 percent after posting lower profits.
Berkeley Futures associate director Richard Griffiths said some investors were selling to book profits on this year’s rally before U.S. Federal Reserve head Ben Bernanke gives testimony on Wednesday.
Some traders have voiced concerns that Bernanke may signal an end to a programme of quantitative easing (QE) which has spurred a rally on global equities this year, with the FTSEurofirst 300 up around 10 percent since the start of 2013.
“With the economic numbers being pretty good in the States, there may be an easing back of QE sooner rather than later,” Griffiths said.
Rate cuts and liquidity injections by central banks have hit returns on bonds and driven investors to the better returns on offer on equities, in turn boosting world stock markets.
Germany’s DAX, which was down 0.2 percent at 8,444.27 points, has hit record highs this month while Britain’s FTSE 100 was close to its highest level since late 2000, around the time of the Internet stock market bubble.
Griffiths felt any signs of an end to the Fed’s stimulus programme could push the DAX back down to 8,000.
Darren Easton, director of trading at Logic Investments, also felt any such signs from the Fed could herald a drop of 2-3 percent on world stock markets. But Easton said he was still buying on intraday dips on expectations stock markets will gradually rise over the course of 2013.
“We don’t want to bet against the long-term trend, which is aggressively up,” he said.
Nomura quantitative strategists are also bullish overall.
“We remain fundamentally bullish on the market and expect European indices to end the year at higher levels, but we think that the path towards that target is unlikely to be a straight line,” they wrote in a research note.