* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.7 pct, Euro STOXX 50 up 1.5 pct
* Talk of ECB stimulus boosts indexes
* Standard Life, Jeronimo Martins lead gainers
By Francesco Canepa
LONDON, April 24 European shares chalked up a
fourth straight session of gains on Wednesday, helped by some
upbeat corporate results and mounting speculation about a
further easing of monetary policy in the euro zone.
British insurer Standard Life and Portuguese retailer
Jeronimo Martins led gainers after announcing strong
The stocks surged 8 percent and 6.9 percent, respectively,
in volume three and five times their average for the past 90
They helped offset a 5.1 percent fall in the world's third
largest brewer, Heineken, which lowered its
expectations for growth this year due to economic austerity in
Europe and inflation in Nigeria.
"Earnings are encouraging," Oliver Wallin, investment
director at Octopus Investments, said.
"There are still winners and losers at a company level, so
we're still backing stock pickers over broad indiscriminate
The average correlation among stocks in the euro zone Euro
STOXX index was just over 50 percent in the last 30
days, compared to a high of 80 percent in early 2012, Datastream
Standard Life and Jeronimo Martins topped the pan-European
FTSEurofirst 300 index, which closed 0.7 percent higher
at 1,191.82 points.
The euro zone blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index rose
1.5 percent to 2,702.05 points.
RATE CUT TALK
The indexes extended gains in the afternoon as dovish
comments by the European Central Bank's Vice President, Vitor
Constancio, fuelled trader talk of an interest rate cut next
week to stimulate the economy after weak German data earlier on
"A rate cut is on the cards," said Ronnie Chopra, head of
strategy at Tradenext, reacting to Constancio's comments.
An interest rate cut is seen as benefitting European
exporters by making their goods cheaper for foreign buyers. A
Thomson Reuters index of German industrial conglomerates, which
have a strong international exposure, rose 1.7 percent
Other traders said the bank could stimulate lending, and
hence economic activity, by setting negative deposit rates.
The Euro STOXX 50 has been swinging in a 5 percent range
this month as mixed economic reports were countered by central
bank stimulus expectations and some stronger-than-expected
"We feel the pull backs in equity markets are likely to be
frequent and ongoing but shallow and short lived," said Octopus'
Wallin, adding each 5 percent pullback provided a buy
"In Europe, we simply feel there is more risk and so are
more wary, hence (we have a) slight underweight. However, ...
the ECB continue to provide the support."
But Wallin cautioned the market was already fully pricing a
rate cut next week, meaning failure to act could result in a new