London - European shares inched higher on Monday, kept buoyant by better-than-forecast export data from China, while concerns over the withdrawal of the US Federal Reserve's stimulus prevented investors from making big bets on the market.
Data over the weekend showed China's exports beat forecasts in November with a 12.7 percent rise, adding to signs of stabilisation in the world's second-biggest economy.
The FTSEurofirst 300 was up 0.1 percent at 1,271.22 points by 10:43 SA time, having gained 0.7 percent on Friday.
The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50, which rose 0.9 percent on Friday, firmed 0.1 percent to 2,982.23 points.
Investors took heart from US jobs data on Friday seen as solid enough to back an economic recovery but not so robust as to prompt an immediate scaling back of Federal Reserve stimulus.
But a Reuters poll conducted after the US payrolls data was released showed that an increased number of US primary dealers see the Fed so-called tapering in March, or sooner.
“I don't think we will see a decent rally into the year end,” Sanlam Securities' head of trading Mark Ward said.
“Investors are still wary of the Federal Reserve cutting stimulus back sooner rather than later. We still think the market is toppy at these levels.”
European stocks have posted steep gains since late June, with the Euro STOXX 50 jumping nearly 20 percent on global central bank stimulus and as investors have moved out of safe bonds and into higher-yielding assets, such as stocks.
This has propelled valuations above their long-term averages.
The STOXX Europe 600 trades on a 12-month forward price/earnings ratio of 13.5 times against its 10-year average of 12 times, Thomson Reuters Datastream shows.
Despite the strong gains on Friday, the Euro STOXX 50 suffered its worst week since August last week, down 3.5 percent, taking it through its 50-day moving average, now at 3,018 points.
Charles Stanley analyst Bill McNamara, notes that while a bounce off lows on Friday suggests that the losses on the Euro STOXX 50 are likely to be contained, resistance is possible around the 50-day moving average. - Reuters