* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.5 pct, Euro STOXX 50 up 0.6 pct
* ECB seen keeping rates unchanged at 0.25 pct
* Metro and ProSieben rise after updates
* European equities to outperform in May -UBS strategists
By Sudip Kar-Gupta
LONDON, May 8 European stock markets rose on
Thursday after reassuring updates from top companies, such as
the German supermarket chain Metro, and
better-than-expected Chinese trade figures.
Investors were also focusing on the European Central Bank's
interest rate decision later on Thursday. Most expect the ECB to
leave rates on hold at a record low of 0.25 percent.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index, which rose
to near a six-year high of 1,357.05 points earlier this month,
climbed 0.5 percent to 1,350.94 points in mid-session trading.
The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index
rose 0.6 percent to 3,178.74 points. Germany's DAX
gained 0.5 percent to 9,573.04 points.
Metro AG rallied 5.1 percent as better-than-expected profits
at its cash and carry business offset a weaker contribution from
the Media-Saturn division. German media group
ProSiebenSat.1 rose 4.8 percent after posting a 9.5
percent increase in first-quarter core earnings.
Data on Thursday also showed that China's exports and
imports returned to slight growth in April, sending a positive
signal for the world's second-biggest economy after a
weaker-than-expected start to 2014.
According to Thomson Reuters StarMine, 50 percent of the
companies on the pan-European STOXX 600 index that have
reported quarterly earnings so far have beaten or met market
expectations with those results.
"Generally speaking, the first-quarter results so far have
seemed pretty good," said Berkeley Futures associate director
ECB RATE DECISION
The ECB was expected to take heart from signs of life in the
euro zone economy and leave interest rates at 0.25 percent,
resisting pressure to act in the face of a stronger euro and
persistently low inflation.
"I'm going in neutral into the ECB meeting. I took profits
on the DAX yesterday, but I'm expecting bullish reverberations
from the ECB meeting," said JNF Capital investment manager
UBS equity strategists said on Thursday they expected
European equities to outperform in May and beat the UK market.
"The region continues to benefit from a recovery in growth
particularly the peripheral countries, easing credit spreads and
subdued inflation," they wrote in a note.
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 Blaise Robinson; Editing by Larry