London - Gains in heavyweight stocks Maersk and Bayer kept European shares steady on Friday, with the broader market staying under pressure due to concerns over less central bank stimulus.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index, which fell 1 percent on Thursday in what was its biggest one-day drop in six weeks, edged up 0.1 percent to 1,228.31 points in early trade.
The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index also advanced 0.1 percent to 2,838.60 points, putting the index back within touching distance of a two-year high of 2,855.89 reached earlier this week.
Danish shipping and oil group AP Moller-Maersk and healthcare stock Bayer added the most points to the FTSEurofirst 300.
Maersk rose 5.9 percent after posting higher second quarter profits, while Bayer rose after Barclays raised its rating on the stock to “equal weight” from “underweight”.
Global equity markets have been volatile over the last month, due to growing expectations that the US Federal Reserve may start to scale back economic stimulus measures that have driven much of this year's stock market rally in September.
The FTSEurofirst 300 and Euro STOXX 50 are both up 8 percent since the start of 2013 but many traders remain positive on European equities over the longer term.
Andreas Clenow, hedge fund trader and principal of ACIES Asset Management, said the broader upwards trend for European shares was intact.
“The Euro STOXX 50 hit a high two days ago. After that, any negative factor will be blown out of proportion. We're probably overdue for a minor correction but we're still in a bull market,” he said.
Clairinvest fund manager Ion-Marc Valahu took a similar line, holding “long” positions to bet on future gains on Italy's FTSE MIB, Spain's IBEX and France's CAC-40 indexes, with markets further buoyed by signs of an economic recovery in the euro zone. - Reuters