European shares hit multi-year high, Airbus surges

Tue May 13, 2014 12:57pm EDT

* FTSEurofirst 300 index ends up 0.3 pct

* Airbus, ThyssenKrupp help industrial shares

* Italian stocks face selling pressure

By Atul Prakash and Blaise Robinson

LONDON, May 13 (Reuters) - European equities ended higher on Tuesday, with some benchmarks hitting multi-year highs following upbeat company results from major companies such as aerospace giant Airbus and steelmaker ThyssenKrupp.

Airbus, the world's second-largest aerospace group, surged 6.2 percent after reporting better-than-expected profits and saying its new A350 jet was "progressing towards certification" in time for first delivery by the end of the year. It was the top gainer on the FTSEurofirst 300.

ThyssenKrupp, Germany's biggest steelmaker, rose 4.1 percent after posting its first quarterly net profit in two years - beating analyst estimates - and raising its forecast for full-year operating profit.

"The current environment is pretty good for industrials and their shares are likely to perform well going forward," said Christian Stocker, equity strategist at UniCredit in Munich.

"We are overweight (in) the sector as capital expenditure by industrial companies in Europe is increasing. Recent earnings results have also reflected that trend."

Airbus and ThyssenKrupp helped the STOXX Europe 600 industrial goods and services sector to advance 0.9 percent, the top sectoral gainer in Europe.

Roughly three quarters of the way into the European earnings season, STOXX 600 firms have posted on average a 2.5 percent rise in profits and a 0.7 percent rise in revenues, according to data from StarMine. That has fuelled hopes of a long-awaited rebound in corporate profits this year.

"This first-quarter earnings season reflects the recovery in the macroeconomic landscape and, although it's moderate, the negative currency impact seems lower than in the previous quarter," said Joffrey Ouafqa, a fund manager at Convictions AM.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares ended 0.3 percent higher at 1,368.75 points after hitting an intra-day peak of 1,369.04, a level not seen since May 2008. The UK's FTSE 100 scaled a 14-year high, while France's CAC 40 touched a near six-year high.

BULLISH TECHNICALS

The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 rose 0.2 percent to 3,211.78 points, with charts suggesting it had potential to set new highs in the near term.

"After another week of consolidation, Europe is moving into a make or break setup this week. The FTSE 100, the Euro STOXX and several other markets are testing their multi-month breakout resistance," UBS technical analyst Michael Riesner said in a note.

"With a break of 3,239, the Euro STOXX 50 would be on track with our summer target projection at 3,320 to 3,350."

Traders said sentiment was also lifted by reports that the Bundesbank was ready to support European Central Bank policy action if it was needed.

Despite the overall rally on Tuesday, investors booked profits on shares in some peripheral euro zone markets such as Italy, which has outperformed strongly this year.

Italy's FTSE MIB fell 1.1 percent. However, the index is still up 12 percent so far this year, against the FTSEurofirst 300, which is up about 4 percent.

"It's been an amazing run so far this year for Italian stocks. But now there are worries in Italy about potential changes to the level of taxation on capital gains and a lot of people are quietly booking profits just in case, so the rally might stall," said Riccardo Designori, market analyst at Brown Editore in Milan.

Among individual movers, Telecom Italia fell 5.2 percent after posting an 8.4 percent fall in first-quarter core profit to reflect declining sales in Italy and a weaker currency in Brazil.

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

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

Today's European research round-up (Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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