* STOXX 600 up 0.1 pct
* Oil top-gaining sector
* Broker upgrades boost Ashtead, Grifols
* H&M drops after results
(Recasts, adds quote and details, updates prices)
By Kit Rees
LONDON, March 30 European shares edged higher on
Thursday, underpinned by a rise in oil stocks as investors
mulled implications of Britain formally beginning the process of
leaving the European Union.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index was up 0.1 percent
by 0852 GMT after a subdued start, with regional indexes trading
flat to slightly higher.
The reaction to Britain formally triggering the Brexit
process on Wednesday was fairly muted from European shares, with
the FTSE 100 index also ending higher as sterling
weakened. The FTSE 100 traded 0.1 percent higher on Thursday.
As Britain embarked on a path of tough negotiations, all
eyes turned to the government's White Paper, in which it will
set out plans to convert European Union laws into domestic
“The last week of March has been cited for some time as the
potential Article 50 trigger date, so we don’t really have that
much corporate news about at the moment,” Henry Croft, research
analyst at Accendo Markets, said.
“We’re trying to watch the reaction of foreign exchange
markets to gauge where the direction might be going for the FTSE
100 and then, on top of that, we’ve also got a little bit of a
crude oil rebound as well.”
A rise in oil stocks lent support, with the sector
up 1 percent and set for its third session of straight gains as
crude prices ticked higher.
Broker upgrades helped provide direction, with Ashtead
the top gainer, up 3.5 percent after Liberum began their
coverage of the stock with a "buy" rating.
Shares in Spanish pharma stocks Grifols were also
boosted after JP Morgan reiterated their "overweight" rating on
the stock, saying that the firm was likely to benefit from
Immuno-globulin upside in 2017.
Among the fallers, a downgrade weighed on Bpost's
shares, which dropped 5 percent after KBC cut the Belgian postal
firm to "hold" due to a rejected tariff increase proposal.
Retailer H&M's shares also fell 4.8 percent, close
to 4-years lows, following a strong open.
The retailer posted a smaller than expected fall in pretax
profit for the first quarter, and said that it will launch a
separate brand in the second half of the year.
However, analysts voiced their concerns about H&M's rising
inventory levels, as well as a revolving credit facility.
Autos were the biggest sectoral faller, down 1.1
percent and led lower by a fall in Daimler's shares,
which traded without entitlement to its latest dividend payout.
(Reporting by Kit Rees; Editing by Ralph Boulton)