Generali leads European shares to fresh 4-1/2 year peak

LONDON, March 14 Thu Mar 14, 2013 12:41pm EDT

LONDON, March 14 (Reuters) - European shares surged to fresh 4-1/2 year highs on Thursday as upbeat corporate updates, including from insurer Generali, and U.S. macro data gave new impetus to the rally.

Europe's third-largest insurance firm, Generali, led gainers, rising 9 percent in heavy volumes, after announcing plans to restore its profitability.

It topped the FTSEurofirst 300 index of blue chip European shares, which closed up 1.1 percent at 1,207.36 points, extending gains after better-than-expected U.S. employment data in the afternoon.

Despite the market's heady levels, Robert Farago, head of asset allocation at Schroders Private Banking, was holding on to his "overweight" positions in shares, betting that a global economic improvement would boost the asset class further in the coming months.

"We're not upping risk at this point but if we were to get new money in, would we put it into equities? Yes, we would," Farago said.