European shares hit 3-month highs on ECB stimulus hopes

Published 20.11.2015 22:57

European shares were on track for their best week in a month on Friday with a benchmark index rising to three-month highs, helped by growing expectations of more European Central Bank stimulus. The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index rose 0.4 percent and was up around 3.5 percent on the week, while the Euro STOXX 50 gained 0.5 percent.

Investors said sentiment was underpinned by a fresh pledge by ECB chief Mario Draghi to act quickly to boost anaemic inflation, highlighting changes to the bank's asset-purchase programme and deposit rates as possible tools.

Tourism stocks have lagged the market, hit by security concerns thrown into sharp focus by last Friday's deadly attacks in Paris. Air France, down over 6 percent in the last two weeks, has experienced some reduction in traffic but it is too early to say how severe the impact of the attacks on bookings will be, a company source said.

Defence stocks, meanwhile, have outpaced the market. BAE Systems was up 1.8 percent, and has rallied more than 11 percent in little over a week. It benefited from an upgrade to "buy" from "sell" from Investec, who cited deteriorating geopolitical conditions as limiting the risk to defence budgets in BAE's core markets.

The top riser was industrial firm Oerlikon, up 6 percent after Sweden's Atlas Copco said it would buy the Swiss company's vacuum business for an enterprise value of 486 million euros in cash. The disposal would increase Oerlikon's margin profile and earnings quality "but also (shift) the current market's focus away from the fears of the economic slowdown (especially in China)," Baader-Helevea equity analysts said in a note. Galp Energia dropped 4.1 percent after Eni sold its remaining 4 percent stake in the Portuguese firm, raising 325 million euros. Abertis also dropped, by 3.8 percent, after a stake sale, with CVC placing the remainder of its 6.4 percent holding.

Germany's DAX index was the top gainer among national indexes, driven by Volkswagen which rose 2.7 percent after announcing a 1 billion euro investment cut for next year. Athens shares fell 1.7 percent amid renewed concerns about political instability in Greece.

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