Banks lead Europe shares up as Greece triggers aid
* FTSEurofirst 300 index rises 0.8 percent
* Banks up as Greece asks for activation of aid package
* Volvo, Ericsson soar after results
* For up-to-the minute market news, click on [STXNEWS/EU]
By Brian Gorman
LONDON, April 23 (Reuters) - European shares were up at midday on Friday, with banking stocks rebounding after Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou asked for the activation of an EU/IMF aid package to pull the country out of its debt crisis.
At 1105 GMT, the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 .FTEU3 index of top shares was up 0.8 percent at 1,092.95 points, after two days of declines. The index is up more than 69 percent from its lifetime low of March 9, 2009.
Some analysts were still cautious and said the market was set to fall.
"Sentiment has improved with Greece biting the bullet. But it's a fairly marginal decision," said Jeremy Batstone-Carr, strategist at Charles Stanley in London.
"The IMF and EU can cobble 45 billion euros together, and resolve Greece's short-term financing issues. But the key issue is Spain and whether it can hold the line on sovereign debt.
"Equity valuations using 10-year smoothed calculations are now one standard deviation above the historical average. Something's got to give."
Greece asked the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Friday to activate its package of 45 bilion euros ($60.5 billion) in emergency loans in what cold be the largest state bailout ever attempted. [ID:nLDE63M0XZ]
Banking stocks reversed the previous session's sharp losses. The sector struggled on Thursday after Eurostat said Greece's budget deficit was worse than feared and Moody's downgraded the country's sovereign rating.
Greek banking stocks .FTATBNK rose 4.9 percent. Other banks to gain included Banco Santander (SAN.MC), HSBC (HSBA.L) and Lloyds (LLOY.L), up between 0.9 and 2 percent.
Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L) gained for the seventh session in the last eight, was up 3.1 percent after Barclays Capital upgraded it to "overweight" and more than doubled its price target.
Miners were in favour, recovering from the previous two sessions' sharp losses. Anglo American (AAL.L), Lonmin (LMI.L), Fresnillo (FRES.L) and Rio Tinto (RIO.L) rose between 1 and 2.3 percent.
The market was also given support by strong earnings news, with two Swedish companies among the most impressive risers.
Truck maker Volvo (VOLVb.ST) surged 11.2 percent after first-quarter profits beat expectations. [ID:nLDE63M04Y]
Ericsson (ERICb.ST) rose 7.5 percent as analysts focused on strong margin growth as a sign of better times ahead for the mobile telecom gear maker after it undershot estimates for first-quarter profit. [ID:nLDE63M0PP]
The sector was badly hit on Thursday after Nokia (NOK1V.HE) results disappointed.
Chemical stocks were in demand. Dutch group Akzo Nobel (AKZO.AS) gained 5.8 percent after it posted a better-than-expected 38 percent rise in first-quarter core profit.
In other individual stocks, sporting goods maker Adidas ADSG.DE rose 4.1 percent after it lifted its full-year profit outlook and reported better-than-expected first-quarter results.
L'Oreal (OREP.PA) rose 2.7 percent. The French cosmetics firm pledged to improve its results this year after first-quarter sales beat forecasts and marked a clear return to growth.
On the downside, SES (SESFd.PA) shares fell 3.5 percent after the world's second-largest satellite operator cut its 2010 growth forecast and reported weaker-than-expected first-quarter figures.
The UK economy grew 0.2 percent in the first quarter, the Office for National Statistics said, less than the 0.4 percent analysts had forecast. [ID:nONS004958]
Investors will look at U.S. economics data later, including March durable goods orders and new home sales. ($1=.7439 Euro) (Editing by Karen Foster)
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