GLOBAL MARKETS-European growth lifts shares as China disappoints

Wed Jul 24, 2013 8:40am EDT

* Euro zone PMIs point to regional recovery

* Shares jump, euro hits 1-month high, Bunds dip on data

* European recovery offsets slowing Chinese output

* Apple sales boost tech stocks, Wall Street seen higher

By Richard Hubbard

LONDON, July 24 (Reuters) - Evidence of growth in the euro zone and strong smartphone sales by technology giant Apple lifted European shares and the euro on Wednesday, offsetting the signs of a steady slowdown in China's giant economy.

Initial estimates of manufacturing activity across the 17-nation currency bloc showed the region on course to end its 18-month old recession, led by an upsurge in activity at German and French factories.

The data sent the euro to a one-month high against the dollar past $1.3250, extended a rally in European shares and saw German bond futures fall 0.5 percent.

"It looks like moderate growth for Europe," said Andrew Milligan, head of global strategy at Standard Life Investments. "But an acceleration is not very likely at the moment, and there is the potential for a political event happening which might make turn investors cautious again."

The European Central Bank's latest quarterly bank lending survey, also out on Wednesday, added to the need for caution, pointing to a further toughening up of lending standards though consumer credit was getting easier for the first time since 2007.

Nevertheless, by midday Europe's broad FTSEurofirst 300 index was 0.9 percent higher, while the euro zone's blue chip index had gained 1.1 percent.

The gains were bolstered by a 1.0 percent rise in technology stocks on the back of Apple Inc's forecast-beating results posted after the U.S. market closed on Tuesday. Demand for Apple shares when trading resumes later in the day was expected to lead to higher start on Wall Street.

Shares in British chip designer ARM Holdings, which designs chips for use in mobile computers and telephones including Apple's iPhone, also benefited, rising 5.0 percent.

GLOBAL SHIFT

MSCI's world equity index had only edged up 0.2 percent as Asian shares were held back by concerns over China's outlook.

The renewed worries over China stemmed from a survey of its vast manufacturing sector which found activity had slowed to an 11-month low in July, suggesting the already slowing economy was still losing momentum.

China's slowdown, which has raised the chance of a hard landing for the world's second largest economy, has hit other emerging market shares and currencies hard as investors eye the better opportunities in the developed markets, especially the U.S.

"In America we've got the best of all possible worlds which is confidence in an economic recovery and a central bank not unduly trying into bring this to a halt," said Milligan.

The better prospects for the U.S. economy supported the greenback which rose 0.6 percent to around 100 yen, moving away from a one-week low of 99.13 yen touched on Tuesday.

The dollar index extended its gains as well, adding 0.3 percent to 82.153 after skidding to a one-month low of 81.926 on Tuesday.

PILLAR OF SUPPORT

Some commodities were also getting battered from the weak Chinese data as it has been a major importer of raw materials, supporting prices in recent years.

"It adds to the concern about the outlook for demand, and brings into question just how strong Chinese commodities demand will be," said Alexandra Knight, economist at National Australia Bank.

Brent oil was down 75 cents to $107.67 a barrel and U.S. crude had fallen 23 cents at $107 by 1200 GMT, after ending 29 cents higher.

The Australian dollar, heavily exposed to Chinese demand, slipped 0.4 percent to $0.9254, down from a near one-month high of $0.9320.