* FTSEurofirst 300 index closes up 0.1 percent
* BP bounces off lows; firm tries again to curb oil spill
* U.S. pending home sales jump to six-month high in April
LONDON, June 2 (Reuters) - European shares edged higher on Wednesday, as upbeat U.S. housing data boosted hopes of a recovery in the world’s largest economy, offsetting falls in banks on concerns over the outlook for growth in the euro zone.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 .FTEU3 index closed up 0.1 percent at 1,003.58 points, to end higher for the third straight session in a choppy session where the index swung between positive and negative territory.
Data showed pending sales of previously owned U.S. homes hit a six-month high in April, lifting shares on Wall Street. [ID:nN02163984]
BP (BP.L) rebounded off lows to end 0.1 percent lower, after a sharp 13 percent drop in the previous session. Traders said there was buying interest in the stock from some hedge funds and investors who are betting the stock will rebound from recent weakness. [ID:nLDE65115O]
The company forged ahead with its latest efforts to curb the flow of oil from its leaking well as the United States began investigating the spill, with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder saying that “if we find evidence of illegal behaviour, we will be forceful in our response.” [ID:nN01128586]
On the downside, banks were pressured by persistent fears the euro zone’s debt crisis could jeopardise economic recovery in the region, with Barclays (BARC.L), HSBC (HSBA.L), Societe Generale (SOGN.PA) and Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) off 0.3 to 2.2 percent.
“Investors are still concerned that the euro zone debt problem is not over and it will keep hanging over the equity market until the market gets to a more reasonable valuation,” said Koen de Leus, economist at KBC Securities.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index has lost around 10 percent since mid-April when fears of a sovereign debt crisis in the euro zone prompted investors to abandon riskier assets.
Among the gainers, Portugal Telecom PTC.L rose 1.5 percent after Spain’s Telefonica (TEF.MC) raised its bid for PT’s stake in Brazilian mobile phone company Vivo VIVO4.SA to 6.5 billion euros ($7.9 billion) from 5.7 billion euros. [ID:N01124414]
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L) added 2 percent after Jefferies raised its rating for the company to “buy” from “hold”.
Prudential (PRU.L) fell 2.5 percent after abandoning its plan to buy AIG’s Asian life unit AIA for $35.5 billion, bowing to shareholder criticism over the price it had agreed to pay and leaving its management under fire.
The number of planned layoffs at U.S. companies in May was almost unchanged from April, suggesting employers are more upbeat about the economic outlook, a report by global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. showed [ID:nNLL1HE64X].
The report comes days ahead of the government’s much-anticipated monthly U.S. payrolls report, due on Friday, which is forecast to show non-farm payrolls rose by 513,000 in May after climbing 290,000 in April.
In Spain the jobless rate — the highest in the euro zone — fell at its fastest pace for five years in May, offering hope for its battered labour market, but the economic outlook remained gloomy and consumer confidence saw a record fall in the same period. [ID:nLDE6510LC