Firmer GDP data gives European shares a fillip

Fri Feb 14, 2014 7:25am EST

* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.5 percent

* Firmer German, French growth data lifts sentiment

* ThyssenKrupp boosted by robust results

By Tricia Wright

LONDON, Feb 14 (Reuters) - European stocks notched up their seventh rise in eight sessions on Friday as firmer economic growth in Germany and France fuelled expectations of a rebound in corporate profits in Europe this year.

The FTSEurofirst 300 was up 0.5 percent at 1,332.04 points by 1214 GMT, with Italy's FTSE MIB, up 1.7 percent. It was outperforming on the prospect of a new centre-left leader in the country believed to be committed to reforms.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index, up more than 5 percent from an early February low, has recovered around three quarters of what it lost during the recent emerging markets sell-off.

The French economy grew 0.3 percent in the final quarter of 2013, slightly beating expectations and boosted by corporate investment, and German economic growth unexpectedly accelerated to 0.4 percent on a rise in exports and capital investment, data showed.

Meanwhile, Italy's economy grew marginally at the end of last year for the first time since the middle of 2011.

The broadly buoyant data overshadowed a surprise drop in U.S. retail sales in January and data showing more Americans filed for jobless benefits last week, albeit driven by temporary adverse weather conditions.

German industrial conglomerate ThyssenKrupp rose 3.9 percent, among the top risers on the FTSEurofirst 300, after a smaller loss at its Brazilian steel mill helped it post a better-than-expected quarterly operating profit.

Such bright spots belied a lacklustre showing in the current European quarterly earnings season.

Half way through, only 58 percent of companies have beaten or met earnings expectations, while half have missed revenue expectations, according to Thomson Reuters Starmine data.

Analysts are, however, confident of a pick-up in earnings later in the year.

"We've got some better economic figures coming out, some more revenue streams, some more jobs basically, not lots but more than last year. That should mean that with companies lean and mean, with margins high, that you get some decent earnings growth," said Philippe Gijsels, head of research at BNP Paribas Fortis Global Markets in Brussels.

Gijsels anticipated 10 percent growth in European earnings over 2014, and a corresponding 10 percent rise in the market.

Italy's FTSE MIB advanced after Prime Minister Enrico Letta said he would tender his resignation on Friday after his Democratic Party (PD) called for him to step aside to make way for a new government.

Letta's decision to quit came after the PD supported a call by its 39-year-old leader Matteo Renzi for a more ambitious government to pull Italy out of its economic slump.

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Asset performance in 2014:

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