By Barbara Kollmeyer, MarketWatch
MADRID (MarketWatch) — A round of strong corporate earnings from the likes of Carrefour SA, Delhaize Group NV and Rémy Cointreau, combined with a late nudge from upbeat U.S. economic data, pushed European stocks to a higher close Thursday.
/zigman2/quotes/210597958/delayed PX1 6,600.66, +54.17, +0.83%
/zigman2/quotes/210598409/delayed UKX 7,134.06, +45.88, +0.65%
The Stoxx Europe 600 index /zigman2/quotes/210599654/delayed XX:SXXP +0.65% finished with a 0.5% gain at 287.35. The benchmark had barely budged on Wednesday, amid concerns about global economic growth.
European shares extended modest early gains after stronger-than-expected U.S. data, which showed initial jobless claims falling last week and construction of new homes rising more than 12% in December.
At midsession on Wall Street, U.S. stocks stood solidly higher. See: Stocks rise as economic view brightens.
Calling the U.S. data “good,” ETX Capital market strategist Ishaq Siddiqi also observed that European indexes “have been unnecessarily sold in recent days on global growth fears.”
“We definitely have some bargain hunters out there entering the market for that reason,” Siddiqi said in emailed comments. An earlier debt auction by Spain also lifted sentiment, he said. Read more: Dollar slips, euro boosted as Spain sells debt
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What a report on the activities gone awry of J.P. Morgan Chase's London investment office shows. (Photo: AP.)
Earnings news provided early support Thursday in Europe, with several food and beverage companies offering updates.
Among the top gainers for the Stoxx 600, shares of Carrefour SA /zigman2/quotes/208564127/delayed FR:CA -0.35% rose more than 6%.
The French retailer reported a 0.8% rise in adjusted fourth-quarter revenue. Giving guidance for 2012 recurring operating profit, Carrefour said it was “comfortable with the current median consensus which stands at around EUR2.07 billion.” Read: Carrefour confirms operating profit view; sales up
Carrefour’s rally contributed to a 1% advance in the French CAC 40 index /zigman2/quotes/210597958/delayed FR:PX1 +0.83% , to 3,744.11. Some banks also helped out in Paris, with shares of BNP Paribas SA /zigman2/quotes/206351084/delayed FR:BNP +0.41% rising more than 3% and Credit Agricole SA /zigman2/quotes/209264506/delayed FR:ACA +0.26% adding 2.4%.
Away from the main Paris index, Rémy Cointreau SA /zigman2/quotes/206802273/delayed FR:RCO -0.82% gained nearly 4% after the French alcoholic beverage group posted a 6.5% increase in third-quarter sales.
Shares of Delhaize Group also jumped, rising more than 10% after the Belgian food retailer said fourth-quarter sales increased 1.9%, which comes after several quarters of losses.
Advertising also got a nod Thursday, as shares of JCDecaux /zigman2/quotes/210449424/delayed FR:DEC +0.41% surged 6.6% in Paris.
Analysts at Société Générale upgraded the outdoor advertising company to hold from sell, citing sharp underperformance by JCDecaux shares and as well as prospects for earnings growth, and lifted its target price to €18.10 from €16.
And Mediaset SpA /zigman2/quotes/207559907/delayed IT:MS +0.34% soared more than 9% to €1.90 after Credit Suisse analysts upgraded it to outperform from underperform, and lifted its price target to €2.65 from €2. The analysts, negative on Mediaset for more than two years, said they believe 2013 will be the “trough year” for Italian advertising.
They added that the full value of its 41% stake in Mediaset Espana hasn’t been fully reflected in share prices and that the stock remains inexpensive.
On the downside, Rio Tinto PLC /zigman2/quotes/208934945/delayed UK:RIO +1.43% /zigman2/quotes/202627887/composite RIO +0.67% fell 0.5% in London, although the shares pared deeper earlier losses. Tom Albanese stepped down as the mining group’s chief executive, as Rio Tinto said it would book a $14 billion impairment charge against the value of its aluminum unit, along with Mozambique coal assets. Read: Rio Tinto CEO steps down after US$14 bln charge
However, analysts at Citigroup upgraded Rio Tinto to buy from neutral, saying: “We believe the market will perceive today’s write-downs and management changes negatively in the short term but … will be positive for the stock and the sector longer term.”
London’s FTSE 100 index /zigman2/quotes/210598409/delayed UK:UKX +0.65% also joined in afternoon gains, up 0.5% to 6,132.36. Shares of banking heavyweight HSBC Holdings PLC /zigman2/quotes/203901799/delayed UK:HSBA +0.18% rose 1.1%, while Barclays PLC /zigman2/quotes/208409333/delayed UK:BARC +0.75% /zigman2/quotes/206581728/composite BCS +0.78% added 0.9%.
In Frankfurt, the German DAX 30 index /zigman2/quotes/210597999/delayed DX:DAX +0.78% rose 0.6% to 7,735.46, as shares of utility E.On SE /zigman2/quotes/205877675/delayed DE:EOAN +0.18% added 0.8%. Financials also rose, with Munich Re /zigman2/quotes/205537285/delayed DE:MUV2 +0.69% moving up 1.1%.