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European shares touch 7-year high after strong U.S. jobs data
February 6, 2015 / 3:28 PM / in 3 years

European shares touch 7-year high after strong U.S. jobs data

* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.1 pct, touches new 7-yr high

* Non-farm payroll report beats expectations

* Alcatel-Lucent rises after promising return to profit

* Switzerland’s Sunrise up 7.4 pct in market debut (Recasts, updates prices)

By Alistair Smout and Blaise Robinson

LONDON/PARIS, Feb 6 (Reuters) - European stocks touched a seven-year high on Friday, recovering early losses after a robust U.S. jobs report pointed to underlying strength in the world’s biggest economy.

Non-farm payrolls increased by 257,000 last month, against a Reuters forecast for 234,000, while data for November and December was revised to show a hefty 147,000 more jobs created than previously reported.

U.S. wages also rebounded strongly.

“There’s been an across-the-board improvement in economic data from the United States, which really assuages concerns we had that there might’ve been a slowdown in January,” Chris Beauchamp, analyst at IG, said.

“We should be encouraged, especially by the strong earnings growth.”

By 1443 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was up 0.1 percent at 1,489.21 points, having touched a seven-year high of 1,492.39.

However, investors remained cautious over Greece, where shares in the countries top banks Alpha, Piraeus and National fell over 8 percent after suffering downgrades in light of a stand-off between the new government and Greece’s creditors.

Tate & Lyle was the biggest loser on the STOXX Europe 600, skidding 13.1 percent after the British ingredients company said annual profits would be below the range it forecast in September, hit by a weak performance in sweeteners in its third quarter.

In contrast, telecom equipment maker Alcatel-Lucent rose 4.7 percent, after pledging to lift profitability again this year through cost cuts after six straight quarters of improving gross margins.

About 60 companies listed on the broad STOXX Europe 600 index have reported results, with 61 percent exceeding analyst forecasts for profits, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S data. In a typical quarter, 48 percent of STOXX 600 companies beat estimates.

However, while fourth-quarter profits are expected to increase 24.4 percent from the fourth quarter of 2013, revenue is expected to fall 3.2 percent over that period, suggesting that some firms are achieving profitability through cost-cutting.

“While a good number of companies are beating earnings estimates, the earnings quality isn’t good. If revenues are flat and profits still beat expectations, that’s not so encouraging,” KCG Europe managing director Ioan Smith said.

Among other standouts, measurement technology and software group Hexagon jumped 8.9 percent, hitting record highs after posting forecast-beating earnings and an improvement in sales growth.

Shares in Swiss telecoms company Sunrise made a solid market debut, rising 7.4 percent above its listing price of 68 Swiss francs.

Backed by European private equity fund CVC, Sunrise is raising 1.36 billion francs with the listing, which went ahead despite a surge in the franc after the Swiss National Bank scrapped the currency’s cap against the euro on Jan. 15.

Today’s European research round-up

Editing by Susan Fenton

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