Nestle and Deutsche Post prop up European shares

Wed Apr 2, 2014 12:57pm EDT

* FTSEurofirst 300 closes up 0.2 pct at 1,343.40

* FTSEurofirst rises for seventh straight session

* Speculation about new ECB measures supports market

* Nestle, Deutsche Post add most points to FTSEurofirst

* Euro STOXX 50 closes flat at 3,187.45

By Sudip Kar-Gupta

LONDON, April 2 (Reuters) - Gains in Nestle and Deutsche Post propped up European shares on Wednesday, extending the benchmark index's winning streak into a seventh straight day.

Expectations that the European Central Bank may introduce new stimulus measures soon acted as a further support for equities, although some traders said they did not expect any new action from the ECB at its meeting on Thursday.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index closed up by 0.2 percent at 1,343.40 points for a seventh day of gains. The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index ended flat at 3,187.45 points.

Nestle rose 1.5 percent and Deutsche Post jumped 4.6 percent and together they added the most points to the FTSEurofirst.

Nestle was boosted by brokerage Bernstein's decision to raise its rating on the Swiss food giant to "outperform" from "market perform", while Deutsche Post rose after it said it expected profits to increase through to 2020.

"European equities are set to give good returns this year. Flows have turned positive, GDP should grow by at least 1 percent and corporate profits by around 10 percent," said Philip Dicken, head of European equities at Threadneedle Investments.

"A weaker euro, which is a likely result of looser European monetary policy, will boost profits further," he added.

NEW ECB ACTION?

The FTSEurofirst 300 rose 16 percent in 2013, its best annual gain since 2009. The index reached 1,353.47 points - its highest level since May 2008 - in late January this year.

Concerns about a slump in emerging markets, coupled with worries about geopolitical tensions between Russia and Western powers over Ukraine, have pushed European equities down from multi-year highs over the last two months.

However, traders said speculation the ECB could signal on Thursday that it is ready to take further steps soon to strengthen the region's fragile economic recovery could give European stock markets a new lift.

Andrea Williams, European equities fund manager at Royal London Asset Management, said the ECB could introduce negative deposit rates or other measures to help the region's smaller companies get access to lending.

Lorne Baring, managing director of wealth management firm B Capital, also said there was a good chance of stocks getting some "tailwind" from the ECB on Thursday.

"It's not possible to predict if it will be this Thursday, but we imagine that in Q2 or Q3 there is a good possibility of further monetary stimulus from the ECB, and we think that will take the form of negative overnight rates," he said.

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Europe bourses in 2014: link.reuters.com/pap87v

Asset performance in 2014: link.reuters.com/gap87v

Today's European research round-up

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^< (Additional reporting by Francesco Canepa and Alistair Smout; Editing by Larry King and Susan Fenton)