Richemont and BT help lift European shares

Thu Nov 1, 2012 5:37am EDT

* FTSEurofirst 300 rises 0.3 pct

* Euro STOXX 50 edges up 0.1 pct

* Much of Europe closed for public holiday but markets open

* Richemont and BT among top gainers

By Sudip Kar-Gupta

LONDON, Nov 1 (Reuters) - European shares edged up on Thursday, bolstered by gains in major luxury goods stocks such as Richemont and in telecoms company BT, which kept its earnings forecast.

Trading volumes, however, were thin due to public holidays in France, Italy, Spain and parts of Germany.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index was up by 0.3 percent at 1,099.43 points, while the euro zone's Euro STOXX 50 blue-chip index gained 0.1 percent to 2,505.64 points.

Although many companies have posted weak third-quarter results over the last month as firms grapple with the faltering global economy, many of the results have not been as bad as some had expected.

BT cut its revenue outlook, but its shares topped the FTSEurofirst 300 leaderboard, rising 5.2 percent and adding the most points to the index as analysts welcomed the fact that BT had kept targets for earnings and cash-flow.

Shares of Swiss luxury goods group Richemont rose 3.9 percent after Bank of America Merrill Lynch upgraded its rating on the stock to "buy" from "underperform".

Richemont's rise lifted the shares of its peers, such as France's LVMH, and those two stocks contributed some of the biggest point gains to the FTSEurofirst 300.

"Richemont's exposure to Asia ranks among the highest after Swatch Group, which should prove an advantage," Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts wrote in a research note.

Out of the companies on the STOXX 600 European index to have reported earnings so far, 47 percent of them have missed market expectations while 53 percent have beaten or met market forecasts.

Clairinvest fund manager Ion-Marc Valahu said European equities remained a compelling investment proposition, with the yields on offer from share dividends higher than historically low returns on cash or benchmark government bonds.

"I'm not overly bullish, but there's no reason not to own equities at these levels," he said.

However, other traders remained relatively negative, citing the euro zone's persistent debt crisis.

The FTSEurofirst 300 is up around 8 percent since late July, when European Central Bank (ECB) chief Mario Draghi pledged fresh measures to protect the euro currency.

However, the index has fallen back from a 2012 peak of 1,122.76 points in mid-September, with Spain under pressure to seek a sovereign bailout deal while Greece has struggled to meet the terms of its own rescue package.

"These markets will remain under pressure," said Berkeley Futures associate director Richard Griffiths.

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