European shares gain, led by retailers, financials; FTSE lags

LONDON/MILAN (Reuters) - European shares rose on Wednesday, reaching their highest level in more than two weeks as retail stocks and financials gained, although Britain’s FTSE was hurt by a jump in sterling after reports of a breakthrough in Brexit talks.

People walk through the lobby of the London Stock Exchange in London, Britain August 25, 2015. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett/File photo

The pan-European STOXX 600 .STOXX ended the session with a 0.3 percent gain. Euro zone blue chips .STOXX50E rose 0.2 percent.

Financials contributed the most to gains, with Lloyds LLOY.L, Santander SAN.MC and Barclays BARC.L rising 1.8 percent to 3.6 percent.

Britain's FTSE 100 .FTSE dropped 0.9 percent as sterling climbed to a two-month high against the dollar.

Britain has offered to pay much of what the European Union was demanding to settle a Brexit “divorce bill”, bringing them close to agreement on a key obstacle to opening talks on a future free trade pact, EU sources said on Tuesday.

Shares in internationally exposed FTSE companies such as British American Tobacco BATS.L, Diageo DGE.L and GlaxoSmithKline GSK.L were down more than 2 percent.

“With the chance of a soft Brexit rising, the global upturn can now begin to rub off on the UK more,” Kallum Pickering, senior UK economist at Berenberg, said in a note.

On the STOXX 600, Ocado OCDO.L led gains, jumping 16.2 percent and taking gains over the past two days to around 40 percent, after French supermarket Groupe Casino CASP.PA agreed to use Ocado's e-commerce platform on Tuesday.

Casino shares gained a further 3.7 percent on Wednesday.

Morgan Stanley reiterated its “overweight” rating on Ocado and said that they “remain buyers”.

Tech stocks declined the most. Chipmakers STMicroelectronics STM.MI, AMS AMS.S, Infineon IFXGn.DE and Dialog Semiconductor DLGS.DE lost 3.6 percent to 7.3 percent.

European tech stocks .SX8P saw losses accelerate towards the end of the session, shrugging off a positive earnings update from U.S. peer Marvell Technology MRVL.O as investors in the U.S. shunned big tech in favor of financials.

European tech has surged 21 percent this year, set to end the year as the region’s best-performing sector.

The sector was hit earlier this week after Morgan Stanley downgraded Samsung Electronics 005930.KS on worries a memory- chip boom could peak soon.

Broader market sentiment was also lifted by signs of progress on U.S. tax cuts, which offset caution following another missile test by North Korea.

The STOXX 600 is still set to end November with a loss, having fallen nearly 2 percent so far this month as investors take profits and earnings growth slows compared with the previous two quarters.

Reporting by Danilo Masoni and Kit Rees, editing by Larry King