European shares hit highest close in 2-weeks

LONDON, March 24 (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 even further on the back of corporate earnings strength.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 (.FTEU3: Quote, Profile, Research) index of top
shares provisionally closed up 1.1 percent at 1,124.14 points
following early session falls on concerns about Portugal, after
its parliament rejected planned austerity measures.

“Long-term we are positive, valuations are not demanding and
companies have strong balance sheets,” 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.

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.
[ID:nLDE72M24M]
($1=.6165 Pound)
(Reporting by Joanne Frearson)

European shares hit highest close in 2-weeks