* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.5 pct, highest since 2008
* Euro zone banks benefit from easier regulatory rules
* World Bank lifts growth outlook for 1st time in 3 years
* Burberry surges after good retail sales
By Alistair Smout
LONDON, Jan 15 European shares rose on Wednesday
to fresh 5-1/2 year highs, buoyed by a better global growth
outlook from the World Bank, with gains supported by easing
regulatory concerns over banks in the euro zone.
Euro zone banks gained 1.3 percent, the top sectoral
riser, after the European Central Bank said lenders will not be
required in upcoming stress tests to adjust sovereign debt
portfolios they hold to maturity to reflect current market
Wednesday's top gainers in the sector, such as Societe
Generale and B P Milano, have large exposure
to sovereign bonds in the region.
The sector is already up 9.3 percent this year. It received
a boost earlier this week when banking regulators agreed to ease
regulation of balance sheets to try to avoid crimping financing
for the world's economy.
"Euro zone banks had good news from Basel at the beginning
of the week, and it looks like regulators are lessening the
regulatory burden on the banking sector," Gerard Lane, equity
strategist at Shore Capital, said.
"That regulatory burden has been seen to be a burden on
economic recovery... and there can be a vicious cycle. As soon
as there's a recovery, banks will be able to repair themselves."
Stocks that are sensitive to global growth trends such as
financials, energy and consumer discretionary stocks combined to
add 5 points to the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300,
accounting for the majority of the index's 0.5 percent advance
to 1,333.17 points.
The index rose to levels not seen since the middle of 2008,
and Germany's DAX hit new all-time highs.
The gains came after the World Bank said the global economy
had come to a "turning point," with fiscal austerity and policy
uncertainty no longer weighing as heavily on most richer
economies. It predicted total global growth of 3.2 percent in
Concerns over growth, especially in the United States, had
dragged on equities following disappointing U.S. jobs data late
But stocks pared sharp losses on Tuesday, helped by signs of
life in the U.S. economy as forecast-beating December retail
sales data showed it gathering steam at the end of last year and
poised for stronger growth in 2014.
"Last year there was a fiscal squeeze of more than 3.5
percent of GDP in the United States, which will more than halve
in 2014. There'll be a natural acceleration of U.S. GDP, and
that will benefit globally," Shore Capital's Lane said.
Growth should help earnings, which fueled Europe's top
gainer Burberry. The luxury firm posted a 14 percent
rise in underlying retail revenue in the Christmas quarter and
saw its stock trade 4.8 percent higher.
The update was seen as boding well for the consumer
discretionary sector at large, after a festive trading period
which has proved mixed for high street retailers and
"It seems that those more expensive ticket items will still
be sold over what has been a mixed Christmas trading period ...
Luxury's advantage versus staples still holds," said Mike van
Dulken, head of research at Accendo Markets.