* ECB lending, German Ifo data bolster rate cut expectations
* European shares build on biggest jump in seven months
* Euro hits to three-week lows vs dollar before rebound
By Marc Jones
LONDON, April 24 (Reuters) - European shares built on their
best day in seven months and oil climbed back above $101 per
barrel on Wednesday after weak data bolstered expectations for a
European Central Bank rate cut.
Wall Street was expected to extend its run of gains to a
fourth day when it reopens with durable goods data and another
run of corporate earnings.
Europe's stock markets have rallied as poor data from the
euro zone has raised hopes the ECB will cut the main interest
rate next week to a record low of 0.5 percent and consider more
radical measures such as targeted lending aid for firms.
There was fresh gloom on Wednesday as German business morale
fell for the second consecutive month, missing even the lowest
estimate in a Reuters poll and signalling that Europe's largest
economy is struggling to shrug off its recent slowdown.
A quarterly survey of bank lending by the ECB also painted a
bleak picture as it showed demand for loans from firms and
consumers plummeted in the first three months of the year and
was expected to deteriorate further this quarter.
"In the short run, worsening prospects for the German
economy could at least increase the silent support for more ECB
action," said ING economist Carsten Brzeski.
"A rate cut and more non-standard measures will not
kick-start economies but weaken the euro exchange rate.
Particularly a weaker euro could be a welcome relief for
Ahead of the Wall Street restart, top European shares on the
FTSEurofirst 300 were up 0.3 percent to add to
Tuesday's jump of almost 2.5 percent and push back towards last
month's 4-1/2 year high.
London's FTSE 100, Paris's CAC-40 and
Frankfurt's DAX were up 0.3, 0.7 and 0.6 percent
respectively, while in the currency market the euro was under
fresh selling pressure.
It was already on the back foot after Tuesday's weak German
PMI data and the latest disappointing figures pushed it to a
three-week low of $1.2954 before a spurt of late morning
buying helped it back above $1.30.
At the same time, the dollar hit a three-week high
against a basket of currencies.
"Everyone is now really betting on the ECB to come to the
stage and cut the key rate," said Carolin Hecht, currency
strategist at Commerzbank.
"Already the PMI yesterday had given an impulse to the
downside (to sell the euro) but some were waiting for the Ifo to
confirm the economy is not really recovering."
Rate cut expectations have also pushed Italian and Spanish
bond yields to their lowest levels in 2-1/2 years in recent
sessions as investors have started to look for higher returns.
Italy's expected nomination of a new prime minister after
months of uncertainty has helped support risk assets too.
Italian President Giorgio Napolitano will name the new
premier later. He has called the deputy head of the centre-left
Democratic Party Enrico Letta to his palace, indicating he was
likely to be asked to form a new coalition government.
Underscoring the ferocious appetite for yield, Rome had to
pay the lowest rate on a 2-year, zero coupon bond since 1999 at
its latest debt sale, while yields at a 1.68 billion euro sale
of German 30-year debt hit an all-time low of 2.16
"Clearly the outlook that (ECB)rates will stay low for a
long, long time is increasing demand for anything that still has
a yield," said Berenberg bank economist Christian Schultz
"But you would not buy Italian bonds unless you felt there
had been a change in the risk perception. Ever since the ECB
provided its safety net there does seem to be a growing
confidence in the market that we won't see a euro break up."
The slowdown in manufacturing activity around the world
shown in this week's data kept the pressure on commodity markets
although hopes for further central bank liquidity ensured there
was little selling pressure.
U.S. investment bank Goldman Sachs raised its rating on
equities as a global asset class to "overweight" from "neutral"
over the coming 3 months, while cutting its position on
commodities to "neutral" from "overweight".
Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange rose by
around 1.75 percent to be just under the $7,000 a tonne
having fallen to an 18-month trough of $6,762.25 on Tuesday.
Brent crude rose 0.7 percent to climb back above $101 a
barrel for the first time in over a week, gaining added
support from fears that OPEC could cut oil supply if prices fall
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, which
pumps more than a third of the world's oil, is scheduled to meet
on scheduled on May 31 but oil hawks Venezuela and Iran have
called for an emergency meeting to consider output cuts.
Gold also continued its recent recovery from last
week's big falls as it climbed around 1 percent to $1,425 an
"Good physical demand in China or in Hong Kong supports
gold, but sentiment is still bearish," said Peter Fung, head of
dealing at Wing Fung Precious Metals in Hong Kong.