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Robust earnings keep European shares near 5-year highs

* FTSEurofirst 300 closes flat at 1,287.57 points

* FTSEurofirst 300 had earlier hit fresh 5-year high

* 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 settled near 5-year highs on Wednesday, supported by robust trading updates from carmaker Volkswagen and Norwegian conglomerate Orkla, among others.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index initially rose 0.6 percent to hit a fresh 5-year high of 1,296.37 points, before edging back to close flat at 1,287.57 points, with the index up by some 3 percent since the start of October.

The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index slipped 0.3 percent to 3,040.69 points while Germany's DAX fell 0.1 percent to 9,010.27 points, having earlier hit a fresh record high of 9,070.17 points.

Some traders said that on a short-term view, the equity market may slip back some 1 percent by the end of this week as traders look to cash in on October's rally.

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

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

Volkswagen rose 5.6 percent after unveiling record sales at premium brands Audi and Porsche that confounded many investors who had bet on a weak quarterly report.

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

According to Thomson Reuters StarMine data, 53 percent of companies on the pan-European STOXX 600 index have posted third-quarter results that have either met or beaten market forecasts.

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


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

Richard Edwards, who runs trading and research firm HED Capital, backed selling into rallies on the Spanish, Italian and French stock markets.

Darren Courtney-Cook, head of trading at Central Markets Investment Management, added there could be a 1 percent pullback on the DAX before the end of the week as traders look to cash in on some equity holdings before the end of October.

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