Rise in Aegon ensures gains for European equities

Wed Jun 18, 2014 6:46am EDT

* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.2 pct

* Aegon buoyed by share buyback plan

* Oil prices rise as violence in Iraq continues

* Ct Suisse upgrades energy equity sector to "benchmark"

* Investors eyeing Fed meeting later on Wednesday

By Sudip Kar-Gupta

LONDON, June 18 (Reuters) - European stock markets edged up on Wednesday to go back within reach of multi-year highs reached last week, with insurer Aegon rallying after announcing a share buyback programme.

However, gains on the stock markets were capped as investors awaited the end of the U.S. Federal Reserve's two-day policy meeting later in the day.

The Fed is widely expected to cut another $10 billion from its monthly bond purchases, while investors will also be watching for any comments on when the Fed will begin to raise interest rates and its outlook for the economy.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index was up by 0.2 percent at 1,390.59 points in mid-session trading, putting the index back in touching distance of a 6-1/2 year high of 1,398.65 points reached last week.

The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index also advanced by 0.3 percent to 3,285.28 points.

Aegon was the top performer, in percentage terms, on the FTSEurofirst 300 index.

Aegon rose 2.7 percent, which traders attributed to the company's announcement late on Tuesday - after markets had closed - of a share buyback programme.

"Aegon is cleaning up its balance sheet, and this share buyback should also help," said Clairinvest fund manager Ion-Marc Valahu, whose portfolio includes Aegon shares.

OIL SHARES RISE

Shares in oil groups, such as Royal Dutch Shell and BP, also rose as the Brent crude price advanced towards $114 a barrel as Sunni militants pushed forward in northern Iraq, striking a key refinery near Baghdad and stoking worries about oil exports from the key producer.

Credit Suisse strategists upgraded their position on the global energy equity sector to "benchmark" for the first time in six years, citing expectations of a rise in the oil price and improving corporate earnings in the sector.

"Earnings revisions are at their strongest for 18 months, marginally above the market, and the 10 percent gap between the spot and consensus oil price suggests this should continue," said Andrew Garthwaite, head of global equity strategy at Credit Suisse.

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)

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