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Earnings support European stocks ahead of GDP data

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April 30 (Reuters) - European stocks inched higher on Friday, as strong corporate earnings lifted investor spirits ahead of the release of euro zone economic growth data for the first quarter.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index was up 0.2% by 0720 GMT. The benchmark hovered below its all-time high and was on course to end April 2.3% higher.

British drugmaker AstraZeneca gained 2.7% on reporting better-than-expected results and forecasting sales growth.

Swedish Match rose 1.9% after the tobacco group reported a much higher first-quarter operating profit than expected.

However, Barclays tumbled 6.2% despite reporting a quarterly profit that more than doubled, while France’s BNP Paribas slipped 1.0% after better-than-expected profit.

All eyes are now on the euro zone’s GDP data due at 0900 GMT. The economy is forecast to have shrunk 2% in the first quarter versus a 4.9% fall in the final quarter of last year. (Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)

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