LONDON Jan 3 European shares inched higher in cautious trading on Friday, led by retailers after Next raised its annual profit forecast following fourth quarter sales that came in significantly ahead of its expectations.
Next, Britain's second largest clothing retailer, climbed 7.4 percent after the company also said it would pay a special dividend of 50 pence a share and outlined a plan for more payouts rather than share buybacks.
The company helped the STOXX Europe 600 retail index to gain 0.7 percent, the best sectoral performer in Europe.
At 0812 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index, which gained 16 percent in 2013, was 0.1 percent higher at 1,306.95 points. The pan-European index ended its first session of 2014 down 0.8 percent after setting earlier on Thursday its highest since mid-2008.