European shares end higher on U.S. data, stay vulnerable

Thu Jan 30, 2014 12:43pm EST

* FTSEurofirst 300 ends 0.3 percent higher

* Market recovers after U.S. growth data

* Healthcare companies up on corporate news

By Atul Prakash

LONDON, Jan 30 (Reuters) - European shares recouped early losses and closed higher on Thursday, with solid U.S. growth data and "oversold" levels prompting some buying, although the market remained vulnerable to emerging market concerns.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares finished 0.3 percent firmer at 1,294.26 points. The index had previously fallen to a session low of 1,281.16 before bouncing back as far as 1,298.46 following the release of U.S. gross domestic product data.

Figures showed the U.S. economy was on a solid ground in the fourth quarter as a result of robust household spending and strong exports, with the economy growing at an annual rate of 3.2 percent.

"Short-term 'oversold' levels, in combination with reasonably good growth numbers from the United States, have attracted some buyers back into the market," said Christian Stocker, equity strategist at UniCredit in Munich.

"But investors are very sceptical. They want to be optimistic, but the current developments in emerging markets have been stressful for them."

Charts showed that the 9-day relative strength index (RSI) for the FTSEurofirst 300 was at 34 after slipping earlier this week below 30, a technically "oversold" market condition that often results in a bounce back.

A rebound in equity prices was supported by a rally in drugmakers, with the STOXX Europe 600 healthcare index rising 1.7 percent to the top of the sectoral gainers' list.

Danish healthcare products maker Coloplast climbed 7.4 percent after major investment banks such as JP Morgan, Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley raised their price targets for the stock, a day after the company raised its full-year revenue guidance.

But gains were eclipsed by a 1.1 percent decline in food and beverages shares, led lower by a 4.7 percent fall in Diageo after the world's biggest spirits company reported a worse-than-expected slowdown in sales growth in the last six months.

Analysts said the stock market was likely to remain volatile because of slowing Chinese growth, the withdrawal of U.S. monetary stimulus and a selloff in emerging currencies.

"A correction following the crisis in emerging market currencies has given an opportunity for investors to rebalance their positions," said Lorne Baring, managing director, B Capital Wealth Management.

"But the market is still vulnerable to sentiment in emerging markets."

The Russian rouble hit record lows against the euro on Thursday and currencies in South Africa and Hungary hit multi-year troughs in the latest wave of an emerging market asset sell-off threatening global economic stability.

Alongside the emerging market worries, investor concern has focused on the current earnings season, and whether it will result in profits strong enough to justify lofty valuations after a bumper 2013.

The STOXX Europe 600 is trading on a 12-month forward price/earnings ratio of 14 times against its 10-year average of 11.9 times, Thomson Reuters Datastream shows.

"I just don't know how you can justify further multiple expansion at the moment. The reasons for that multiple had a lot to do with central bank stimulus which has not been withdrawn yet but is certainly not continuing at the pace it was," Peel Hunt equity strategist Ian Williams said.

Europe bourses in 2014:

Asset performance in 2014:

Today's European research round-up

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