UPDATE 1-European shares at six-year high, buoyed by Spain

Mon Feb 24, 2014 12:55pm EST

* FTSEurofirst 300 rises to six-year high
    * Euro STOXX 50 also rise
    * Spain gets boost from Moody's
    * Volkswagen, HSBC cap gains


    By Joshua Franklin
    LONDON, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Demand for Spanish equities
helped European shares to six-year highs on Monday, but
weaker-than-expected results from HSBC and a disappointing
outlook from Volkswagen capped the gains.
    Spanish stocks rose 1.2 percent after Moody's raised
Spain's sovereign debt rating one notch to Baa2 with a
"positive" outlook. Sentiment was also lifted by
data that showed German business morale rose in February to its
highest level since July 2011. 
    European stocks have risen sharply over the past 2-1/2
weeks, with the CAC-40 hitting a 5-1/2-year high on Friday,
boosted by hopes the region's economy and corporate profits will
recover this year.
    "The outlook for corporate earnings, helped first by exports
and now by a recovery in domestic demand, is improving," said
Ann Steele, European equity fund manager at Threadneedle
Investments. "Consumer confidence on the continent is on the up,
and countries that have been most prepared to undergo difficult
reform are reaping benefits in terms of GDP growth."
    The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 closed up 0.6
percent at 1,351.65 points, the highest closing price since May
2008. The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index
finished up 0.8 percent at 3,157.31 points.
    British mobile operator Vodafone rose 4 percent.
Vodafone's shares have gained on the prospect of one of the
largest capital returns in corporate history, after it sells its
stake in U.S. mobile-phone company Verizon Wireless.
    Slowing the rally, shares in HSBC  fell 2.8
percent. Europe's largest bank posted results that fell short of
expectations and warned of more volatility in emerging
markets. 
    The drop was even sharper for Volkswagen, which
sank 9.2 percent after it issued a disappointing 2014 outlook
and announced plans for what some considered a generous buyout
of truck maker Scania's minority shareholders, sending
shares in the latter up 31.9 percent.  
    Worries brewing over credit restrictions on China's property
sector also kept investors on edge. 
    Mining shares, which have a big exposure to resource-hungry
China, retreated, with Rio Tinto down 1.8 percent and
Anglo American down 1.7 percent.
    Around Europe, UK's FTSE 100 index was up 0.4
percent, lagging continental indexes. Germany's DAX 
gained 0.5 percent and France's CAC 40 rose 0.9 percent.
    "The prospect of a pick-up in growth in the euro zone has
been one of the big catalysts for the market in the past few
weeks," said Vincent Ganne, analyst at derivatives broker FXCM. 
    "With a lot of data coming out this week, including Friday's
inflation figures, fund managers' risk appetite will be tested.
We need more positive news, otherwise investors will start
having doubts."   
    
    Europe bourses in 2014:Asset performance in 2014:Today's European research round-up
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