European shares steady awaiting further growth signals

LONDON (Reuters) - European share markets were little changed on Wednesday, awaiting further signs of improving global economic recovery after a big rise in the previous session fuelled by encouraging German data.

The FTSE Eurofirst <.fteu3> index of top European shares was down 0.1 percent in early trading, having gained 1.1 percent on Tuesday, its best day for three weeks <.fteu3>.

London's FTSE 100 <.ftse>, Paris's CAC-40 <.fchi> and Frankfurt's DAX <.gdaxi> were all close to flat. <.eu/>

"I see no reason why we can't consolidate the gains and possibly move higher," said Michael Hewson, an analyst at CMC Markets.

Global share markets surged on Tuesday after forecast-beating German sentiment data pointed to an accelerating recovery in Europe's largest economy.

The data comes ahead of more important euro zone flash Purchasing Managers Indexes on Thursday and a German business sentiment survey on Friday that could show whether the region's recovery is taking hold.

The rising hopes of recovery have been supported on Wall Street by a surge in merger activity that has sent U.S. benchmark shares indexes close to record highs. <.n>.

In Asia, share markets outside Japan are at 18-month highs <.miapj0000pus>, as the relatively stronger growth outlook compared with Europe and the United States has drawn in foreign investors.

The rise in equities has weighed on assets perceived as safe havens, with German Bund futures down 25 ticks in early trade to 142.57, though news that Spain may be about to issue a U.S. dollar bond supported sentiment.

In the currency markets the euro rose 0.2 percent to $1.3413 but sterling fell to its lowest in nearly 16 months against a trade-weighted basket of currencies.

Currency traders have their eyes on central banks and the minutes of policy meetings at the Bank of England and the U.S. Federal Reserve that are due to be published later in the day.

The Bank of England minutes at 0930 GMT may reiterate a tolerance for higher inflation or greater disagreement among policymakers over the value of restarting the bank's asset purchase program.

Commodities markets mostly followed equities higher, with spot gold inching up 0.2 percent to $1,605.90 an ounce but stuck near a six-month low.

London copper edged up 0.2 percent to $8,067.75 a metric ton, off Tuesday's three-week lows but Brent crude was little changed at $117.47 a barrel.

(Additional reporting by Masayuki Kitano in Singapore and Thuy Ong in Sydney; Editing by Eric Meijer)

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