Bank results help European shares

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London - One of Europe's top regional indexes extended its gains to six days on Wednesday, its best winning streak of the year, after good earnings and bullish news from China and the United States.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 was up 0.6 percent at 1,325.25 at 13:05 SA time, taking gains over the last six sessions to 4 percent. It had hit six-week lows earlier in the month.

Euro zone banks rose 1.4 percent, buoyed by good results from France's Societe Generale and Dutch bank ING.

Societe Generale led gainers, rising 6 percent after it said it would use a swing to profit in the fourth quarter to return more capital to shareholders in 2014.

“SocGen have managed to turn things around quite well. Their tier one debt ratios are looking comfortable, well ahead of (regulatory) requirements,” Alastair McCaig, an analyst at IG, said, referring to the bank's stronger capital position.

“They have also managed to reduce their exposure to the likes of Greece and Egypt, which probably makes some pretty good business sense.”

ING rose 5.1 percent after it said dividends of its own were coming into view, as the Dutch bank entered the final stages of a wide-ranging restructuring programme, with results also coming in ahead of expectations.

Corporate reports provided support across non-financial sectors, with Heineken up 1.6 percent.

Profits were in line with expectations, but the brewer said it saw a return to revenue growth in 2014 after a tough year last year.

Analysts at Liberum Capita said the results slightly beat expectations for sales.

Only three sectors were in negative territory, after sentiment for riskier assets was lifted by good trade data from China and a strong session on Wall Street.

Basic resources stocks rose 1.8 percent, the largest sectoral gain, after China surprised markets with a thumping trade performance in January. The data drew some scepticism but still allayed fears of deepening economic malaise.

“On the China figures, the export number is so far above consensus you have to question it,” said Darren Sinden, trader at Titan Investment Partners. “Oil imports number was up sharply too, which could imply increasing growth, but I think we will need to see confirmation before jumping to that conclusion.”

US stocks rose for a fourth straight day on Tuesday as Congress agreed to advance legislation extending US borrowing authority and the Federal Reserve's new chief held off from making any changes to its schedule for trimming stimulus.

“Yellen didn't rock the boat, but she didn't say anything that was particularly new,” Sinden said, who also cautioned that the bounce from the debt deal may not last long.

“Despite the relief that an agreement was reached and more brinkmanship and possible default were avoided, all they have done is agree to borrow more, not set any plans to reduce debt ... which will surely need to be addressed.” - Reuters


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