Casino jumps, financials provide support as European shares pause for breath

LONDON (Reuters) - European shares inched higher on Thursday, with investors less keen to chase the previous session’s strong rally that came on the back of the relatively dovish tone struck by Fed chair Janet Yellen overnight.

Traders work in front of the German share price index, DAX board, at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, July 11, 2017. REUTERS/Staff/Remote

The pan-European STOXX 600 .STOXX was up 0.3 percent at its close while blue-chips .STOXX50E gained 0.4 percent, with rate-sensitive real estate stocks .SX86P, which were top gainers on Wednesday, tracking more modest gains.

On Wednesday, the European benchmark posted its best day since Emmanuel Macron’s victory in the first round of French presidential elections, as banks and yield plays rallied.

“With stocks having come off in the last few weeks, maybe investors were thinking now is the time to take the opportunity of that pullback and add some more,” said Mike Bell, global market strategist at JP Morgan Asset Management.

“Yellen’s speech was a catalyst for that.”

Cyclicals were back to the fore on Thursday with banks, which gain from higher rates, up 0.9 percent.

“Our view remains that government bond yields will move higher, and that leaves us still favoring the less rate-sensitive parts of the stock market, cyclicals, while we’re more cautious on defensives,” Bell added.

Commerzbank CBKG.DE led the sector higher with a gain of 2.7 percent after saying that it was well on its way to reach its job reduction goals.

Earnings began trickling in from a string of French companies.

Supermarket Casino CASP.PA jumped 3.6 percent, bolstering gains among retailers .SXRP, after its second-quarter sales growth accelerated, helped by a brightening domestic picture and a resilient performance in Brazil despite the recession there.

“The beat is likely helped by good weather annualizing against a period of poor weather and strikes,” said Bernstein retail analyst Bruno Monteyne.

“What’s not clear at this stage is whether, like Carrefour, the sales beat at Casino will have come at the cost of higher promotions and price cuts,” he added.

Umicore UMI.BR jumped nearly 4 percent higher after a top-ranked analyst at ABN Amro added the Belgian chemicals group to their 'conviction list', citing capacity increases in the company's battery business, as growth prospects for the electric car industry improve.

Tullow Oil TLW.L also benefited from a positive broker view, with its shares up 5.6 percent and leading the STOXX after Numis upgraded its on the energy stock rating to "buy" from "add".

Drugmaker AstraZeneca AZN.L was among the worst European performers after a report that Chief Executive Pascal Soriot was to be named CEO of Israel-based Teva Pharmaceutical Industries TEVA.TA.

Reporting by Helen Reid & Kit Rees; Editing by Andrew Heavens