* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.9, hits 5-week high
* Miners outperform as Bernanke affirms easy policy stance
* Portuguese stocks hit by renewed political uncertainty
By Alistair Smout
LONDON, July 11 (Reuters) - European shares hit a five-week high on Thursday, led by growth-sensitive stocks, after the chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve reaffirmed his commitment to easy monetary policy in the near-term.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 touched 1,201.79, its highest level since early June, after Ben Bernanke said that a “highly accommodative policy is needed for the foreseeable future” at a conference on Wednesday evening.
His words spurred risk assets on after a mixed market reaction to the initial release of the Fed meeting’s minutes. At the meeting in June, the Fed said it was looking to tighten policy by the end of the year, rocking equity markets.
“Bernanke’s gone from hawkish to dovish in one fell swoop... the confusion aspect isn’t helpful, but over the longer stretch you have to take a brighter view equities than previously,” Dan Reed, head of CFD trading at Beaufort Securities, said.
“Maybe he is trying to rein back from the caution he prompted initially, but the consistency in his communication needs to be better, and I‘m cautious about buying into this.”
At 1042 GMT, the FTSEurofirst was up 0.6 percent at 1,196.96, with the Euro STOXX 50 up 0.9 percent, rising to 2,683.77 and back around pre-Fed meeting levels.
The index is still down over 5 percent since Bernanke first hinted that the Fed may look to slow stimulus at the conference after the release of the previous meeting’s minutes on May 22.
Basic resources, sensitive to sentiment towards the economy, were the top sectoral gainers, up 3.7 percent, with precious metal miners benefiting in addition from strength in gold as a safe-haven asset against a weaker dollar.
The sector has underperformed so far this year, down 24 percent.
“With the miners, the sector is vastly underowned. In such an environment, the price can get squeezed up without a fundamental re-rating of the sector,” Jeremy Batstone-Carr, analyst at Charles Stanley, said.
Mexico-focused precious metals miner Fresnillo gained 9.6 percent, the top FTSEurofirst riser, while Randgold RRS.L was up 5.4 percent. Fresnillo had fallen 23 percent since the beginning of June, with gold bearing the brunt of concerns over the Fed asset purchase programme.
The regional underperformer was Portugal, with its blue-chip index down 1.6 percent after the president rejected a plan to heal a government rift, raising the prospect of early elections just as the country tries to exit its EU bailout programme.