Robust earnings keep European shares near 5-year highs

Reuters

* FTSEurofirst 300 flat, hovering near 5-year highs

* DAX slips 0.1 percent, having earlier hit new record high

* Volkswagen and Orkla rise after earnings and sales figures

By Sudip Kar-Gupta

LONDON, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Pan-European equities hoverednear 5-year highs on Wednesday, supported by robust tradingupdates from carmaker Volkswagen and Norwegianconglomerate Orkla, among others.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index was flat at 1,288.22points in late session trade, having earlier hit a fresh 5-yearhigh of 1,296.37 points, and with the index up by some 3 percentsince the start of October.

The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index slipped 0.2 percent to 3,043.33 points while Germany's DAX fell 0.1 percent to 9,015.80 points, having earlier hita fresh record high of 9,070.17 points.

Some traders said that on a short-term view, the equitymarket may slip back by around 1 percent by the end of this weekas traders in on October's rally.

But others focused on a longer-term bullish view on equitymarkets, forecasting a rally into the end of 2013.

Volkswagen and Orkla were among the top risers on theFTSEurofirst 300 index after reporting figures that were eitherin line with or better than market expectations.

Volkswagen rose 5.8 percent after unveiling record sales atpremium brands Audi and Porsche that confounded many investorswho had bet on a weak quarterly report.

Rupert Baker, a European equity sales executive at MirabaudSecurities, said European companies were having to cope with theimpact of a fall in the U.S dollar against the euro,which could hit exports, but added that generally speaking theirunderlying third quarter results looked solid.

According to Thomson Reuters StarMine data, 53 percent ofcompanies on the pan-European STOXX 600 index haveposted third-quarter results that have either met or beatenmarket forecasts.

"There is a currency headwind but the underlying earningslook robust enough," Baker said.

FED MEETING

Traders added that equities were also being supported byexpectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve will maintain itsmassive bond-buying programme when it concludes a two-daymeeting on Wednesday.

Yet with markets such as the DAX at record highs, some saidnow was a good time to trim back equity positions to cash in.The FTSEurofirst 300 is up 14 percent since the start of 2013while the DAX has risen 19 percent.

Darren Courtney-Cook, head of trading at Central MarketsInvestment Management, said there could be a 1 percent pullbackon the DAX before the end of the week as traders look to cash inon some equity holdings before the end of October.

"The month-end is coming. That could be the catalyst for abit of profit-taking," said Courtney-Cook, who sold out of theDAX futures contract at 9,063 points on Wednesday.

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