European shares inch towards multi-year high, LVMH rallies

Thu Apr 10, 2014 8:03am EDT

* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.1 pct, 1 pct off highest in almost 6 years

* LVMH Q1 sales give luxury goods sector a boost

* M&S shares rise after trading update, then fall back

By Tricia Wright

LONDON, April 10 (Reuters) - European shares inched higher on Thursday after minutes of the U.S. Federal Reserve's latest policy meeting suggested it would be less inclined than anticipated to raise interest rates.

Luxury goods makers surged as Louis Vuitton owner LVMH posted better-than-expected quarterly sales in a key division, easing concerns over the potential impact of turmoil in emerging markets.

"(LVMH's) trading statement highlights further acceleration in Fashion & Leather/Vuitton, a very positive outcome in a context of weak trends as seen or expected at soft luxury peers - Prada, Gucci brand, Hugo Boss, Tod's. This should be sufficient to support the shares near-term," Citi analysts wrote in a note.

Shares in LVMH rose 4 percent, Gucci owner Kering was up 2.1 percent, Christian Dior advanced 2.7 percent, while Richemont progressed by 1.8 percent.

The Fed minutes had fuelled a rally on Wall Street. The market pushed out expectations of a first Fed rate hike by about six weeks, to July 2015, trading in interest-rate futures showed.

"This does continue to make me believe that equities are the best play in town," said Lex van Dam, hedge fund manager at Hampstead Capital.

The FTSEurofirst 300 was up 0.1 percent at 1,339.87 points by 1138 GMT, in choppy trade which saw the index swing between 1,329-1,345. Traders pinned earlier weakness on a big sale of Euro STOXX 50 futures.

The index gains built on a 0.4 percent rise on Wednesday when concerns about valuations, which triggered a steep sell-off earlier in the week, started to ease. It is now around 1 percent off near six-year highs hit on Friday.

The Euro STOXX 50 was flat at 3,183.33 points. It is just 1.7 percent below 5-1/2 year highs reached on Friday.

The STOXX 50 has found strong support over the last couple of days just beneath 3,180, a previous level of resistance.

Alpari analyst Craig Erlam said this suggests that the pull-back seen earlier this week "was just a shallow correction and the uptrend will resume", though added that Friday's high of 3,239 will need to be broken in order to confirm this.

Above this, he targets 3,277 followed by 3,329.

Marks & Spencer bucked the firmer market trend, shedding 1.6 percent to reflect concerns about profit margins and disappointment that Chief Executive Marc Bolland said investors would have to wait until 2013-14 results are published on May 20 for any strategic update.

Shares in the British retailer rose as much as 3.3 percent in early trading after it said clothing sales at stores open over a year increased 0.6 percent in the 13 weeks to March 29.

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 Blaise Robinson; Editing by Hugh Lawson)