* FTSEurofirst 300 index flat near 7-year highs
* Investors’ focus on U.S. jobs data due at 1330 GMT
* Bureau veritas down after Wendel sells shares
By Atul Prakash
LONDON, March 6 (Reuters) - European shares steadied near seven-year highs on Friday with investors focussed on whether U.S. jobs figures would be strong enough to prompt the Federal Reserve to hike interest rates sooner than expected.
February non-farm payrolls data, due out at 1330 GMT, was forecast in a Reuters survey to show a 240,000 rise, down from a 257,000 gain in January. That would mark the 12th straight month of increases above 200,000, the longest such run since 1994.
“There is still a debate raging over whether the Federal Reserve will raise rates at mid-year or later. So from that point of view, stronger employment data could be seen to favour a June rate hike,” BCS Asset Management global equity fund manager, Edmund Shing, said.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was flat at 1,569.96 points by 0857 GMT, heading for a fifth straight week of gains.
The index rose 0.8 percent to a new seven-year high on Thursday after European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said the bank’s bond-buying programme may last beyond September 2016 if necessary and dismissed concerns it might struggle to find sellers for the bonds.
“After a strong run-up, investors are on the lookout to book some profits going into the weekend,” BNP Paribas Fortis Global Markets head of research, Philippe Gijsels, said.
“Too strong jobs numbers will spark rate hike fears and hit equities, while a weak figure will spook investors as they will doubt the strength of the economy. So either way, profit taking looks likely,” he said.
Germany’s DAX share index was also flat, with investors ignoring data showing German industrial output rose more than expected in January, a sign that Europe’s largest economy had a strong start to 2015.
Among standout movers, Bureau Veritas fell 4 percent after French investment group Wendel sold 10.9 percent of the certification group at a final price of 20.32 euros per share, a source close to the matter said on Friday.
Sandvik rose 2.8 percent, with some traders citing a Barclays note raising its target price to 85 Swedish crowns from 75 crowns.
Thomas Cook Group rose 15 percent after Chinese conglomerate Fosun International said it bought a 5 percent stake in the British travel group, deepening its foray into Europe’s tourism sector after buying French holiday maker Club Med last month. (Editing by Louise Ireland)