July 13, 2016 / 9:00 AM / in 3 years

European stocks lifted by gains at Spanish banks and Accor

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* Credit Suisse stays benchmark on European cyclicals

* Spanish banks buoyed by court ruling

* AccorHotels shares rise on plans for HotelInvest arm

By Sudip Kar-Gupta

LONDON, July 13 (Reuters) - European stocks gained ground on Wednesday to leave a benchmark regional index near its highest level in more than two weeks, with shares in Spanish banks and AccorHotels outperforming.

The pan-European STOXX 600 was up 0.3 percent, on track for its fifth straight day of gains and near its highest level since late June.

The STOXX 600 had slumped 11 percent in the first two trading sessions in the immediate aftermath of Britain’s shock vote on June 23 to leave the European Union.

However, the index has since clawed back much of that ground, helped in part by expectations that the European Central Bank and Bank of England will step in to support markets from the effects of the Brexit vote.

While the STOXX 600 is down 8 percent so far in 2016, it is up nearly 10 percent from its post-Brexit low point reached on June 27.

“We continue to be supported by the expectations of more central bank stimulus measures, although after this rally I’m starting to turn more defensive and I’ve taken up some gold positions,” said Rupert Baker, European equity sales executive at Mirabaud Securities.

Shares in Spanish banks such as Banco Popular and Sabadell rose after the European Court of Justice’s advocate general backed a Spanish court ruling capping banks’ liabilities for so-called floor clauses in mortgage contracts, offering a relief for banks that had feared multi-million euros compensations.

Shares in AccorHotels also rose 4.7 percent after investors welcomed its plans to turn its HotelInvest property business into a subsidiary.

Nokia also rose 4.4 percent after Nokia raised its sales forecast and announced a licensing agreement with Samsung.

Credit Suisse’s equity strategists changed some of their sectoral positions given the slight market rebound after the initial slump following the Brexit vote.

The Credit Suisse team cut European utilities to “underweight”, while keeping a benchmark position on stocks most exposed to the domestic European economic cycle, such as staffing companies Randstad and Adecco

“We continue to focus on the domestic demand proxies in Europe as, in our view, the European growth story looks more resilient than investors realise,” they said. (Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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