Banks propel European shares near 19-month highs

By Joanne Frearson

LONDON (BestGrowthStock) – European shares ended near 19-month highs on Thursday, led by banking stocks as positive U.S. earnings gave support to the sector and drugmakers gained

after Roche results beat forecasts.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares closed up 0.6 percent at 1,112.22 points, its highest close since late September 2008.

The index is up almost 72 percent since hitting a lifetime low in March last year, and is on track to post its seventh straight week of gains.

Bank stocks added to Wednesday’s gains and featured among the top performers. Barclays, Credit Suisseand HSBC rose 1.6 to 3 percent.

“Earnings season has had a good start, and this is supporting equity markets,” said Tammo Greetfeld, equity strategist at UniCredit in Munich. “Banks are still doing well on optimism surrounding the JPMorgan results yesterday.”

Greek banks gained 4.4 percent on what analysts said was optimism that Greece was taking steps to activate a EU/IMF aid mechanism for the country’s finances.

Swiss drugmaker Roche rose 2.8 percent after it beat first-quarter sales forecasts and confirmed its full-year outlook.

Peers AstraZeneca and Novartis were up 0.6 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively.

ENERGY STOCKS RISE

Energy stocks extended their rally from the previous session, boosted by positive comments from Credit Suisse.

The broker upgraded BP to “outperform” from “neutral” and raised target prices across the sector for both integrated oils and oil explorers.

BP, Total and Cairn Energy climbed 0.5 to 2 percent.

On the downside, miners slipped as copper dipped 0.4 percent, weighed down by a stronger dollar.

Anglo American, BHP Billiton and Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation lost 0.4 to 1 percent.

Food group Danone fell 1.6 percent, pressured by uncertainty over the withdrawal of health claims on its products and with some analysts citing valuations concerns.

Across Europe, the FTSE 100 index rose 0.5 percent, Germany’s DAX gained 0.2 percent and France’s CAC 40 was up 0.2 percent.

(Editing by Will Waterman)

Banks propel European shares near 19-month highs