* FTSEurofirst 300 closes up 0.2 pct at 1,343.40
* FTSEurofirst rises for seventh straight session
* Speculation about new ECB measures supports market
* Nestle, Deutsche Post add most points to FTSEurofirst
* Euro STOXX 50 closes flat at 3,187.45
By Sudip Kar-Gupta
LONDON, April 2 Gains in Nestle and
Deutsche Post propped up European shares on
Wednesday, extending the benchmark index's winning streak into a
seventh straight day.
Expectations that the European Central Bank may introduce
new stimulus measures soon acted as a further support for
equities, although some traders said they did not expect any new
action from the ECB at its meeting on Thursday.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index closed up
by 0.2 percent at 1,343.40 points for a seventh day of gains.
The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index ended
flat at 3,187.45 points.
Nestle rose 1.5 percent and Deutsche Post jumped 4.6 percent
and together they added the most points to the FTSEurofirst.
Nestle was boosted by brokerage Bernstein's decision to
raise its rating on the Swiss food giant to "outperform" from
"market perform", while Deutsche Post rose after it said it
expected profits to increase through to 2020.
"European equities are set to give good returns this year.
Flows have turned positive, GDP should grow by at least 1
percent and corporate profits by around 10 percent," said Philip
Dicken, head of European equities at Threadneedle Investments.
"A weaker euro, which is a likely result of looser European
monetary policy, will boost profits further," he added.
NEW ECB ACTION?
The FTSEurofirst 300 rose 16 percent in 2013, its best
annual gain since 2009. The index reached 1,353.47 points - its
highest level since May 2008 - in late January this year.
Concerns about a slump in emerging markets, coupled with
worries about geopolitical tensions between Russia and Western
powers over Ukraine, have pushed European equities down from
multi-year highs over the last two months.
However, traders said speculation the ECB could signal on
Thursday that it is ready to take further steps soon to
strengthen the region's fragile economic recovery could give
European stock markets a new lift.
Andrea Williams, European equities fund manager at Royal
London Asset Management, said the ECB could introduce negative
deposit rates or other measures to help the region's smaller
companies get access to lending.
Lorne Baring, managing director of wealth management firm B
Capital, also said there was a good chance of stocks getting
some "tailwind" from the ECB on Thursday.
"It's not possible to predict if it will be this Thursday,
but we imagine that in Q2 or Q3 there is a good possibility of
further monetary stimulus from the ECB, and we think that will
take the form of negative overnight rates," he said.
Europe bourses in 2014: link.reuters.com/pap87v
Asset performance in 2014: link.reuters.com/gap87v
Today's European research round-up
(Additional reporting by Francesco Canepa and Alistair Smout;
Editing by Larry King and Susan Fenton)