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Earnings help European shares extend best streak of the year

One of Europe's top regional indexes extended its best winning streak of the year today, buoyed by good earnings and bullish news from China and the United States to rise for a sixth straight session.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 was up 0.3pc to 1,321.29 in early trade, taking gains over the last six sessions to 4 percent as the index continued its bounce from 6-week lows made earlier in the month.

In a heavy day for earnings reports, Societe Generale led gainers, up 3.9pc after saying it would use a swing to profit in the fourth quarter to return more capital to shareholders in 2014.

"SocGen reported a good, solid set of numbers... There's nothing not to like in SocGen," said Toby Campbell-Gray, head of trading at Tavira Securities, adding that the return to profit and higher dividend were highlights.

Adding the most points to the index were French oil and gas firm Total, also benefiting after results from a decision to raise its dividend.

Heineken rose 2.8pc after its own results. Although profits were in-line with expectations, the brewer said it saw a return to revenue growth in 2014 after a tough year last year, and analysts at Liberum Capita said the results slightly beat expectations on the sales front.

Only three sectors were in negative territory, after sentiment to riskier assets was lifted by good trade data from China and a strong session on Wall Street.

China surprised markets with a thumping trade performance in January as import growth hit a six-month high and the value of exports rose 10.6pc drawing some scepticism about the data but still allaying fears of a deepening economic malaise.

"On the China figures, the export number is so far above consensus you have to question it," Darren Sinden, trader at Titan Investment Partners, said.

"Oil imports number was up sharply too which could imply increasing growth but I think we will need to see confirmation before jumping to that conclusion."

U.S. stocks had risen for a fourth straight session on Tuesday as Congress agreed to advance legislation extending U.S. borrowing authority, and the Federal Reserve's new chief held off from making any changes to its schedule for trimming stimulus.

"Yellen didn't rock the boat but she didn't say anything that was particularly new," Sinden said, who also cautioned that the bounce from the debt deal may not last long.

"Despite the relief that an agreement was reached and more brinkmanship and possible default was avoided, all they have done is agree to borrow more, not set any plans to reduce debt... which will surely need to be addressed."


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