German data helps Europe shares extend 2-week rally
(Updates with closing levels)
* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.7 pct, back at late July levels
* Forecast-beating German PMI eclipses recent soft patch
* Raiffeisen Bank jumps on reassuring comments on Russia
* Miners knocked lower by Chinese macro data
PARIS, Aug 21 (Reuters) - European stocks ended higher on Thursday, extending their sharp two-week rebound after better-than-expected German private sector growth figures which reassured investors about the outlook for Europe's biggest economy following a soft patch.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares ended 0.7 percent higher at 1,355.09 points, reaching a level not seen since late July.
Markit's flash composite Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) for Germany -- which tracks growth in the manufacturing and service sectors that make up more than two-thirds of the economy -- came at 54.9 for August, down from 55.7 in July but still well above the 50 mark that separates growth from contraction.
Last week, GDP data showed Germany's economy suffered a surprise contraction -- its first in more than a year -- in the second quarter.
"It's a relief rally. There were concerns that the German economy was going to suffer because of Ukraine-related issues, but today's data shows that the economy is going to keep on growing," Koen De Leus, senior economist at KBC, said.
The FTSEurofirst 300 had lost as much as 7 percent between late June and early August, hurt by worries the Ukrainian conflict and tensions between the West and Moscow could derail Europe's fragile economic recovery and hit corporate results.
Germany's DAX index, one of the European markets hardest hit by worries over turmoil in Ukraine, had lost as much as 11 percent in the sell-off.
The DAX gained 0.9 percent on Thursday, Britain's FTSE 100 index was up 0.3 percent and France's CAC 40 rose 1.2 percent.
For FXCM analyst Nicolas Cheron, however, the market rebound seen in the past two weeks remains fragile and European stocks continued to underperform Wall Street.
"The 'long U.S. shares/short European shares' pairs trade has worked well and this should continue for a while. European indexes are still a good 6 to 8 percent below their recent peaks while Wall Street benchmarks are at record highs," he said.
"Even though worries about Ukraine have eased a bit lately, it still weighs on European stocks and particularly the DAX. There won't be a real rebound until the end of the hostilities or some kind of deal between Russia and Ukraine."
Shares in Austria's Raiffeisen Bank International -- one of Europe's blue-chips with the biggest exposure to Russia -- jumped 11 percent after saying it expected "no significant impact" from Western sanctions against Moscow.
The stock had tumbled more than 30 percent between early June and early August.
Shares in mining stocks bucked the trend after data showed China's manufacturing activity hit a three-month low in August, with shares in Rio Tinto down 0.7 percent and Anglo American down 1.3 percent.
The HSBC/Markit Flash China Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) fell to 50.3 from 51.7 in July, missing economists' forecast of 51.5.
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 Atul Prakash in London; Editing by Gareth Jones)
- Islamic State threat 'beyond anything we've seen': Pentagon
- British Muslims blame jihadi subculture after beheading video |
- Israeli air strike kills three Hamas commanders in Gaza |
- U.S. aid workers who survived Ebola leave Atlanta hospital |
- National Guard to withdraw from riot-torn Ferguson, Missouri |