UPDATE 1-European shares rise, reassured by U.S. jobs data

Fri Dec 6, 2013 12:29pm EST

* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.7 pct after 4 days of falls

* Nestle offers biggest boost after Givaudan stake sale

* Markets still on track for worst week since June

By Toni Vorobyova

LONDON, Dec 6 (Reuters) - European equities rose on Friday, snapping their longest losing streak in six months thanks to a rally in Swiss food firm Nestle and robust U.S. jobs data.

The United States added 203,000 non-farm payrolls last month, with markets interpreting the number - above consensus but well within the 125,000 to 230,000 forecast range - as being solid enough to back an economic recovery but not so strong as to prompt an immediate scaling back of Federal Reserve stimulus.

The FTSEurofirst 300, which had been flat just before the data on worries that the Fed could taper its bond purchases as soon as this month, turned higher to close up 0.7 percent at 1,270.38 points.

"It leaves the market with the possibility of interpreting - for tapering to happen now, to happen in January and to happen in March are all very feasible and that's why the market is taking it positively," said Steen Jakokbsen, CIO at Saxo Bank.

"It's strong but it's not strong enough for the economy to have escape velocity. It's not strong enough for the doves on the Federal Reserve to actually make a move, but it's probably strong enough to give a vindication to people who want to move."

The stocks rise snapped a four-day losing streak, the longest down-run since June, and put the FTSEurofirst 300 on track for its biggest one-day gain in three weeks.

Offering the biggest single stock boost to the index, heavyweight Nestle added 1.1 percent after saying it was selling its 10 percent stake in Swiss fragrance and flavour maker Givaudan.

The sale potentially frees up to 1.08 billion Swiss francs ($1.20 billion) for share buybacks or acquisitions.

"They might as well... make better use of the capital, whether it's buying another business or buying back shares," Nick Xanders, head of strategy at BTIG, said.

Givaudan shares fell 2.1 percent. L'Oreal, in which Nestle owns a 29.5 percent stake, rose 3.6 percent.

Energy stocks were boosted by higher crude prices and some upbeat comments from HSBC, which started coverage of the integrated oils sector.

"We think the outlook for cash flow and free cash is stronger than is being discounted in the market," HSBC analysts said in a note, awarding 'overweight' ratings to BP, BG , Shell and Total.

However, Friday's gains were not enough to stop the FTSEurofirst 300 from posting its biggest weekly drop since June, with investors booking profits ahead of the year end.

Nonetheless, investors remain upbeat for 2014, with big banks forecasting that an improving global economy will spark double-digit earnings growth. Thus earnings will become the main driver for stocks, enabling markets to take scaling back of central bank stimulus in their stride.

"Most people are expecting that the taper will start sooner rather than later, certainly by the early part of next year. But it gets to a point where ultimately an improving U.S. economy ... that can continue to grow with reduced support from the Fed has got to be a good thing," said Neil Marsh at Newedge.