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European shares drift higher, SocGen drops

Source : REUTERS
Last Updated: Wed, Feb 13, 2013 17:40 hrs

* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.4 pct at 1-week highs

* Emerging market revenues boost corporate earnings

* DAX, FTSE get technicals lift

By Toni Vorobyova

LONDON, Feb 13 (Reuters) - European shares rose on Wednesday, with key indexes breaking above the past week's trading range, boosted by a crop of upbeat corporate reports and easing concerns about the euro zone debt crisis.

Brewer Heineken and French vouchers and pre-paid cards group Edenred were among the top gainers after reporting 2012 results that were buoyed by their exposure to fast-growing emerging markets.

Sentiment on Europe improved too, thanks to strong demand at an Italian bond auction - despite uncertainty surrounding next week's elections there - and euro zone factory output data that confirmed a slow recovery.

"You are seeing some slight economic optimism coming in, and that's why the market is going up. We are trying to make up what we lost last week," said Oliver Roth, head trader at Close Brothers Seydler.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 closed up 0.4 percent at 1,165.61 points, its highest finish since a steep sell-off on Feb. 4 on concerns over the Italian election and a Spanish corruption scandal.

"Clearly the market is in a good momentum. From a technical point of view the market still looks very strong," said Steen Jakobsen, chief economist and CIO at Saxo Bank.

Britain's FTSE 100 added 0.3 percent, with the gains accelerating after it broke through January's peak to set 5-year highs.

Germany's DAX was another strong performer, adding 0.7 percent to close above technical resistance of 7,700 points.

"It means we have a real good chance to test 7,800 now ... but we need much more than a bit of economic optimism to go towards 8,000 so we need really strong figures, that the optimism is based on real fact," said Roth at Close Brothers.

By sector, miners were among the top performers, also benefiting from higher copper prices.

However, banks, which also tend to do well at times of improved risk appetite, lagged the market, dragged down by news of a bigger than expected fourth quarter loss at Societe Generale.

With around two-thirds of European banks yet to report earnings, the news soured sentiment on the sector as a whole.

Of the STOXX 600 companies that have already reported 2012 earnings, around 40 percent have missed expectations compared to 29 percent of their U.S. peers in S&P 500, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine data.

As highlighted by Wednesday's crop of earnings, focusing on foreign markets generally pays off better, even if the domestic economy is starting to show shoots of recovery.

"The general message is that economic growth in Europe will continue to be weak for the foreseeable future, so investors are likely to be better off looking for growth outside of Europe," said Nick Nelson, strategist at UBS.

"Our preferred area is the United States ... The valuation of some of the U.S.-exposed stocks look slightly more attractive than some of the emerging market-exposed stocks, where investors have been hiding for the last few years."




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