* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.4 pct, Euro STOXX 50 up 0.3 pct
* Low volumes expected due to public holiday in Europe
* FTSEurofirst set to post biggest weekly gain in 6 months
* Euro STOXX 50 halted by key resistance level
By Blaise Robinson
PARIS, Aug 15 (Reuters) - European shares rose in early trade on Friday, gaining ground for the fourth time in five sessions, helped by BHP Billion after the world’s biggest miner said it could spin off assets.
Trading volumes were expected to be low on Friday due to a public holiday in a number of European countries, although most national bourses were open.
Shares in BHP rose 2.8 percent after the group confirmed its preference for a demerger of unwanted aluminium, manganese and nickel assets.
Other mining stocks rose, with Rio Tinto up 1.4 percent and Anglo American up 1.2 percent.
Friday’s gains mirrored a rally on Wall Street on Thursday, fuelled by conciliatory comments from Russian President Vladimir Putin, which helped ease worries over the Ukrainian conflict.
But despite Putin’s comments, tensions remained high between Russia and Ukraine. Dozens of heavy Russian military vehicles massed near the border, where a Russian convoy with humanitarian aid came to a halt as Moscow and Kiev struggled to agree on border crossing procedures.
“It’s still quite tense in Ukraine, but the market is getting used to it,” a Paris-based equity and exchange-traded fund trader said.
“Indexes are in a technical bounce from the July sell-off, and they should remain range-bound today due to the public holiday in many countries.”
At 0736 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was up 0.4 percent at 1,334.45 points.
The benchmark was set to post its biggest weekly gain since mid-February, up 2.1 percent, bouncing back from a sharp pull-back started in late June that had been sparked by fears of escalation in the Ukrainian conflict as well as Western sanctions against Russia.
The euro zone’s blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index gained 0.3 percent to 3,068.20 points, but was halted by a strong technical resistance at around 3,071 points, representing the 38.2 percent Fibonacci retracement of the index’s recent two-week slide.
Around Europe, UK’s FTSE 100 index was up 0.5 percent, Germany’s DAX index up 0.3 percent, and France’s CAC 40 up 0.2 percent.
Shares in German airline Lufthansa rose 3.6 percent, the top gainers among European blue-chips.
German business daily Handelsblatt reported that politicians from the conservative CDU and centre-left SPD parties will ask the federal transport minister to come up with a proposal that will see the air traffic tax in Germany being scrapped. German airlines say the tax costs them around 1 billion euros a year, with the lion’s share being paid by Lufthansa.
Europe bourses in 2014: link.reuters.com/pap87v
Asset performance in 2014: link.reuters.com/gap87v
Today’s European research round-up (Editing by Toby Chopra)