* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.4 pct, Euro STOXX 50 up 0.3 pct
* Volumes low as Wall St closed for Thanksgiving break
* Italian shares still cheapest in Europe, data shows
* Thomas Cook surges after raising targets
By Blaise Robinson
PARIS, Nov 28 European stocks gained ground on
Thursday in light trade, with Italian shares outperforming after
the country's Senate expelled former prime minister Silvio
Berlusconi, fuelling hopes of stability for the current
The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares
gained 0.4 percent at 1,305.02 points, hitting its highest
closing level since 2008.
Volumes were thin however - representing only about
two-thirds of an average session of the past three months - as
Wall Street was closed for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Italian shares were in focus, with Milan's FTSE MIB
rising 0.9 percent, led by banks such as UniCredit,
Intesa Sanpaolo and UBI Banca, up 1.7-2.2
Late on Wednesday, the Italian Senate expelled Berlusconi
over his tax fraud conviction, while Prime Minister Enrico Letta
said his government would press on with its reform programme.
"It brings more visibility about the Italian government.
Investors bet that things will be more stable from here," said
Riccardo Designori, market analyst at Brown Editore, in Milan.
"The review of banks' holdings in the Italian central bank
is also boosting the banking sector today, and it could turn out
to be a game changer," Designori said.
On Wednesday, a government decree approved a revaluation of
bank holdings in the Bank of Italy, aimed at helping the banks
improve their capital positions.
Italian shares have been outpacing the broader market since
June, with the MIB surging 28 percent while the broad STOXX
Europe 600 gained 18 percent.
But despite the outperformance, Italian shares remain among
the cheapest across Europe, trading at 12 times expected
earnings in the next 12 months, while the STOXX 600 trades at
Around Europe on Thursday, the euro zone's blue-chip Euro
STOXX 50 index gained 0.3 percent, to 3,092.42
points, the UK's FTSE 100 index added 0.1 percent,
France's CAC 40 gained 0.2 percent and Germany's DAX
index rose 0.4 percent.
Tour operator Thomas Cook featured among the top
gainers, leaping 15 percent after it raised its revenue and
Heavyweight mining company Rio Tinto also gained
ground, up 3.9 percent after it unveiled an ambitious plan to
cut costs by $3 billion.
Following a four-month rally which propelled pan-European
indexes to five-year highs, stocks stalled in late October and
have moved sideways since.
The market has been capped by mixed macroeconomic data, a
raft of lower-than-expected corporate earnings as well as
worries over the outlook for the U.S. Federal Reserve's stimulus
However, David Thebault, head of quantitative sales trading
at Global Equities, sees further gains on the market before the
end of the year, supported by strong central bank liquidity and
an acceleration in mergers and acquisitions.
"Almost everyday, there's a deal announced," he said.
"European companies are sitting on about 1,000 billion euros
in cash, and the best option they have in this low growth
environment is to make acquisitions instead of boosting capital
expenditure. So we can expect many more deals, and that will
support the market."