* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.4 pct, Euro STOXX 50 up 0.5 pct
* Market relieved as China intervenes to ease credit squeeze
* Gloomy corporate updates temper optimism
* Unilever bucks trend with earnings beat
By Francesco Canepa
LONDON, Jan 21 European shares rose to 5-1/2
year highs on Tuesday, boosted by gains in consumer goods group
Unilever after strong results and by China's moves to defuse a
Investor appetite, however, was tempered by disappointing
corporate updates from beverage group SABMiller and
French engineering firm Alstom, among other companies.
Unilever rose nearly 4 percent after
reporting better-than-expected 2013 results on Tuesday, with an
improved performance in emerging markets.
The company, which generates more than half of its sales in
emerging economies, had been hit hard by slower economies and
weaker currencies in many of its markets in the third quarter.
"Unilever struggled in the third quarter so there may be a
one-off element in that there were some sales that were delayed
and came through in the fourth quarter," Nomura analyst David
Hayes said. "But you've got to give them credit because they
really seem to have stepped up to the mark in a difficult
The stock was among the best performers in the pan-European
FTSEurofirst 300 index, which was up 0.4 percent at
1,348.85 points, a level not seen since May 2008, at 1139 GMT.
The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 was up
0.5 percent at 3,167.49 points.
Investors welcomed a move by the People's Bank of China to
inject 255 billion yuan ($42 billion) into financial markets to
ease concerns about a credit crunch that could hamper growth in
the world's No.2 economy.
"People don't want to see instability in China," Grant
Lewis, head of research at Daiwa Capital Markets, said.
"If (Chinese authorities) want to move forward in terms of
liberalisations you are going to have this kind of volatility in
money rates but they do seem to be doing what they can."
Waning economic momentum in China, which is revamping its
growth model by embracing greater transparency and
higher-quality development, has been hitting earnings in Europe.
French spirits group Remy Cointreau said on
Tuesday its sales contracted more than feared in the third
quarter as a Chinese government crackdown on corruption caused
once free-wheeling spenders to drink less premium cognac.
Larger rival SABMiller, the world's No. 2 brewer,
saw its stock fall 0.9 percent on Tuesday after it reported
disappointing third-quarter sales, hurt by weaker beer
Adding to a gloomy earnings picture for the broader market,
Dutch food and chemicals group DSM fell short of its
full-year earnings target and French engineering firm Alstom
lowered its annual objectives, sending the stocks down 10
percent and 11 percent, respectively.
Companies in the STOXX Europe 600 are seen missing consensus
expectations by 1.3 percent in the latest quarter, according to
StarMine's SmartEstimates, which focus on the up-to-date
predictions form historically most accurate analysts.
Today's European research round-up
Europe indexes in 2014: