Encouraging signs for global economy push European shares to new 5-year high
* FTSEurofirst 300 index rises 0.1 percent * Auto, travel shares help index to set 5-yr high * Ryanair jumps after forecast-beating results By Atul Prakash LONDON, May 20 (Reuters) - European shares set a new five-year high for a fourth straight session on Monday after positive indicators from the United States and Japan pointed to an improving global economic outlook. At 0803 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of blue chip European shares was 0.1 percent firmer at 1,249.08 points after earlier reaching 1,250.91, its highest since the middle of 2008. The index is up more than 10 percent this year. "We have started to see a series of positive readings coming out of the United States. We are positioned for a rising market and think that the best way is to invest in financials," Robert Parkes, equity strategist at HSBC Securities, said. Equities gained strength from encouraging economic indicators. Data on Friday showed that U.S. consumer sentiment rose to the highest level in nearly six years, while a gauge of future economic activity rose to a near five-year high. On Monday, Japan raised its assessment of the country's economy for the first time in two months. Cyclical sectors were in demand, with the travel and leisure sector gaining 0.6 percent. Budget airline Ryanair led the sector, jumping 5.7 percent after posting forecast-beating full-year earnings on strong growth in fares and a sharp rise in charges for items such as baggage and in-flight refreshments. The news supported peer EasyJet, which climbed 4.3 percent. It was underpinned by Citigroup lifting its price target for the stock to 1,330 pence from 1,210 pence. The shares were last quoted at 1,240 pence. The European auto sector rose 1.3 percent on expectations that a recovery in the global economy would boost demand for vehicles. "You might gradually see people moving away from defensives to cyclicals," a European equities trader said. "It's incredibly difficult to find good returns in the bond market, so equities are an obvious choice for investors."