German data keeps European shares near multi-year highs
* DAX near record highs, FTSEurofirst near 7-yr high
* Strong German retail sales help sentiment
* Portugal's BCP, BPI rally on merger speculation
* Bid speculation also boosts Vallourec
By Francesco Canepa and Sudip Kar-Gupta
LONDON, March 3 (Reuters) - European stock markets hovered close to multi-year highs on Tuesday, helped by better-than-expected German retail sales data and merger speculation in the Portuguese banking sector.
Bid rumours also drove up the shares of French steel pipe maker Vallourec, which rose 7 percent after investment bank Macquarie said Vallourec could be a bid target. Vallourec declined to comment on the speculation.
German retail sales rose more by 2.9 percent month-on-month, and 5.3 percent year-on-year, in January, more than economists had expected. That helped Germany's DAX index rise 0.3 percent to test an all-time high hit on Monday.
"We're buying the dips and when it reaches new highs we take a little bit of profit, but not too much," said Markus Huber, a senior trader at Peregrine & Black. Continuación...