European shares given retail boost, Kingfisher up

By Joanne Frearson

LONDON (Reuters) – European shares rose to a two-week closing high on Thursday, boosted by strong results from retailers, while a Reuters poll suggested stocks were set to rise further on corporate earnings strength.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 (.FTEU3: Quote, Profile, Research) index of top shares closed up 1 percent at 1,123.52 points following early session falls on concerns about Portugal, after its parliament rejected planned austerity measures.

Trading volume was 104.8 percent of its 90-day average.

“Long-term we are positive, valuations are not demanding and companies have strong balance sheets,” said David Moss, director of European equities at F&C Asset Management, which has 7.1 billion pounds ($11.52 billion) of assets under management in Europe.

Retailers were in demand, with the STOXX Europe 600 Retail (.SXRP: Quote, Profile, Research) rising 1.5 percent. Kingfisher (KGF.L: Quote, Profile, Research) jumped 7.2 percent after announcing forecast-beating full-year profits, while Next (NXT.L: Quote, Profile, Research) gained 4 percent following a dividend hike.

Volume was high for both companies, with Kingfisher’s at 273.6 percent of its 90-day average and Next at 254 percent of its 90-day average.

“We do not own Kingfisher, but we are looking at the company, it is very well positioned and has strong cash generation,” Moss said.

The stocks both outperformed the FTSE 100 (.FTSE: Quote, Profile, Research) index which was up 1.5 percent.

POSITIVE EARNINGS MOMENTUM

A Reuters poll showed positive corporate earnings would help boost European stocks through 2011, with Germany’s benchmark DAX index (.GDAXI: Quote, Profile, Research) and France’s CAC 40 (.FCHI: Quote, Profile, Research) seen closing this year around 11 percent and 13 percent higher, respectively.

On Thursday Germany’s DAX gained 1.9 percent and France’s CAC rose 1.4 percent.

The poll also suggested stock valuations looked cheap and equity valuations on Thomson Reuters Datastream showed the STOXX Europe 600 (.STOXX: Quote, Profile, Research) carrying a forward price-to-earnings ratio of 10.2, below a 10-year average of 13.6.

In the carmaking sector, Daimler (DAIGn.DE: Quote, Profile, Research) was in demand after a person familiar with the matter said the company and Rolls-Royce (RR.L: Quote, Profile, Research) have submitted an offer of 24 euros per share for specialty-engine maker Tognum (TGMG.DE: Quote, Profile, Research).

Daimler was up 3.5 percent.

However, Barclays Capital downgraded the auto sector to “underweight” from “market weight” citing the impact on demand of higher commodity prices and rising interest rates in the emerging markets.

Higher oil prices historically have a negative correlation with auto sector performance Barclays Capital analysts said, given the demand substitution effect.

“On the costs side, rubber prices are well above all-time highs and steel prices have also increased substantially, both of which should hinder margin expansion,” they added.

Euro zone sovereign debt issues remained in the background and a decision on the beefed up euro zone bailout fund, which was widely anticipated at Thursday’s and Friday’s European Union summit, is now unlikely until June.

Traders said investors had priced in a possible bailout for Portugal after austerity measures were rejected by the parliament and the Prime Minister Jose Socrates resigned.

Portugal’s PSI 20 (.PSI20: Quote, Profile, Research) rose 1.1 percent and Spain’s IBEX 35 (.IBEX: Quote, Profile, Research) gained 1.1 percent as investors shrugged aside a Moody’s downgrade of 30 Spanish banks.

(Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

European shares given retail boost, Kingfisher up