* FTSEurofirst up 0.3 pct, CAC hits highest since 2008
* Technip, Saint-Gobain enjoy upgrades following results
* French index reverses last year's underperformance
* Vodafone adds most points after Verizon deal completed
By Alistair Smout
LONDON, Feb 21 France's CAC 40 index hit
a 5-1/2-year peak to lead European shares higher on Friday, with
an index of top shares in the region set for its third straight
week of gains.
French-listed oil services group Technip and
construction firm Saint-Gobain rose 3.4 percent and
2.9 percent respectively, buoyed as banks lifted their target
prices for the stocks after they reported results earlier in the
Saint-Gobain is now up 4 percent since reporting a sales and
profit drop on Wednesday, with Berenberg describing the results
as "solid" and the outlook as optimistic.
That continued a recent trend of French companies delivering
decent profits and better outlooks, in contrast to last year,
when a weak economy hit earnings and caused the CAC to
Of French blue chips to report yearly earnings so far, 60
percent have beaten or met expectations, posting an aggregate 2
percent surprise on earnings estimates.
On the STOXX Europe 600, there has been only a 1
percent positive aggregate surprise in earnings reports, with 59
percent of companies having beaten or met expectations.
"Many are calling the French economy the sick man of Europe,
but people are buying the future. France has so much potential
to improve," Markus Huber, senior sales trader at Peregrine &
"The problems they're having are already so well known and
are in the price, and there's a lot of scope for positive
surprises, and little scope for negative surprise."
The CAC is up 1.8 percent so far this year, compared to a
0.8 percent rise on the German DAX. Last year, the DAX
rose 25 percent to the CAC's 17 percent gain.
At 1502 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top
European shares was up 0.3 percent at 1,342.55 points, led by a
0.5 percent rise on the CAC, hitting its highest since 2008.
Outside of the French index, Vodafone gained 2.5
percent as it completed the sale of its stake in Verizon
Wireless to U.S. peer Verizon, contributing the most
points to the index's advance.
The deal tees up an $84 billion payout in cash and shares at
the end of February, which many may look to reinvest in stocks
like Vodafone, analysts said.
"Certainly holders of Vodafone tend to be institutional and
will play the re-weight somewhat by the book. Re-investment back
into the Vodafone stub itself is certainly occurring apace,"
Monument Securities director Andy Ash said.
The FTSEurofirst 300 was set for its third straight week of
gains, and investors remained positive on European stocks, with
figures showing further brisk inflows into the region.
A poll by Thomson Reuters Lipper of 102 U.S.-based funds
invested in European equities showed they added $502 million
into European equities in the seven-day period to Feb. 19, a
34th straight week of net inflows - marking the longest streak
of weekly inflows since Lipper started to monitor flows in 1992.
Europe bourses in 2014:
Asset performance in 2014:
Today's European research round-up