* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.4 pct, sets fresh 5-yr high
* Earnings beats for ING, Adecco give new momentum to rally
* Shares later trim gains as traders fret about ECB policy
By Francesco Canepa
LONDON, Nov 6 European shares hit five-year
highs on Wednesday after estimate-beating results from financial
conglomerate ING and staffing firm Adecco
gave fresh impetus to a largely stimulus-driven equity rally.
Main indexes trimmed gains in late trade, however, after a
Market News report dampened market bets for a European Central
Bank rate cut on Thursday, which would help exporters.
Results from Dutch banking and insurance group ING
and Adecco, the world's No. 1 staffing agency, beat
forecasts, sending their shares up 3.5. percent and 3.6 percent,
Other gainers included French cement major Lafarge
, which confirmed debt reduction targets, and power and
engineering group Alstom after it said it would cut
costs further and would not need fresh capital.
The stocks were among the top risers on the pan-European
FTSEurofirst 300 index, which closed 0.4 percent higher
at 1,296.58 points after hitting a fresh five-year of 1,300
points earlier in the session.
The reports brightened a so-far dull earnings season, which
has seen 49 percent of companies in the STOXX Europe 600
index miss consensus expectations, a greater proportion
than in recent quarters, Thomson Reuters StarMine data showed.
However, the pace of analyst downgrades has slowed, showing
that the market is becoming less bearish about future earnings,
Datastream data showed.
"The environment is improving and therefore the expectation
is that earnings will improve considerably going forward," said
Lorne Baring, managing director of wealth management firm B
Capital, who has long positions on Germany's Dax,
Britain's FTSE and France's Cac 40 indexes.
Baring said he did not expect the ECB to cut rates on
Thursday but he reckoned dovish rhetoric from president Mario
Draghi was likely to drive down the euro after recent
tame inflation data.
European stocks have been rallying over the past four weeks,
boosted in part by expectations that both euro zone and U.S.
monetary policy will remain accommodative for some time.
Andrew Milligan, head of global strategy at Standard Life
Investments, said the market was trying to balance mixed global
economic data with the prospect of further quantitative easing
from the Federal Reserve, which has diluted returns in
alternative asset classes and boosted equities.
"There's a lot of money which I think very clearly is
saying, if the Fed's not going to move... I certainly might buy
some equity and this might only be a three/six month cycle but
I'm going to take advantage of it," Milligan said.