Arcelor helps European shares rise for second day

Fri Feb 7, 2014 10:01am EST

* FTSEurofirst 300 and ESTOXX 50 up 0.8 pct

* U.S. jobs data worse than forecast

* Traders still positive on longer-term US jobs' outlook

* ArcelorMittal rises after forecasting higher profits

By Sudip Kar-Gupta

LONDON, Feb 7 (Reuters) - European shares rose for a second straight day on Friday, helped by gains at steelmaker Arcelor , as long-term investors bet equities would continue to benefit from the region's gradual economic rebound.

Equity markets briefly pared gains after worse-than-expected U.S. employment data, but then swiftly recovered as traders and investors said the longer-term outlook of a gradual global economic pick-up remained intact.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index was up by 0.8 percent at 1,300.12 points, while the euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index also advanced by 0.8 percent to 3,033.09 points.

Heavyweight steelmaker ArcelorMittal - regarded as a gauge for the health of global manufacturing - was among the top FTSEurofirst 300 gainers, rising 3.6 percent after forecasting higher profits for 2014.

According to Thomson Reuters analysis, out of the 70 companies on the pan-European STOXX 600 index to have reported fourth-quarter earnings so far, 51 percent have posted earnings above analyst estimates.

"The bulls think we're back on track," said Darren Courtney-Cook, head of trading at Central Markets Investment Management.

Investors also focused on the fact that even though U.S. employers hired far fewer workers than expected in January, the U.S. unemployment rate dropped a tenth of a percentage point to 6.6 percent last month, the lowest since October 2008.

Some analysts added that, while the U.S. jobs report was unlikely to sway the Federal Reserve from continuing to make reductions in its bond purchase programme, the longer-term view of a U.S economic recovery was intact.

"The headline payroll figure is quite soft, probably due to the bad weather last month, but the trend of the jobless rate is intact, and that's a pretty good indication that the U.S. economy is back on track, so overall it's positive for the market," said David Thebault, head of quantitative sales trading at Global Equities.

BUY ON THE DIP?

Along with ArcelorMittal, stocks seen as among the most sensitive to a pick-up in the global economic cycle - such as miners and carmakers - outperformed.

The STOXX Europe 600 Basic Resources sector, which houses major mining stocks, rose 1.6 percent while the carmakers sector also rose 1 percent.

Chris Mellor, equity strategist at London-based Sunrise Brokers, said equities remained the best asset class compared to bonds or cash, where returns have been hit by record low interest rates set by major world central banks.

Mellor also advocated using the recent dip in global equity markets to add to positions.

The FTSEurofirst 300, which rose 16 percent in 2013, fell nearly 2 percent in January due to fears of a slump in emerging markets economies and a possible slowdown in growth in China.

However, Mellor felt an improvement in manufacturing data in Europe remained supportive of a slow move higher on European equity markets.

"The economic backdrop remains supportive. The sell-off offers an opportunity to buy equities," he said.

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