European shares hit new seven year high on China data, QE hopes
European shares climbed to a new seven-year high on Tuesday after data showed China's economic growth had slowed less than feared and expectations grew that the European Central Bank would launch a quantitative easing programme later this week.
Sentiment also improved after a survey showed German analyst and investor sentiment jumped in January for the third straight month, helped by low oil prices and a weaker euro, boosting hopes for a rebound in Europe's biggest economy.
At 1142 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was up 1 percent at 1,423.86 points, reaching a second seven-year high in as many days after China data.
China's economy grew 7.4 percent in 2014, its slowest pace in 24 years and just missing the official 7.5 percent target. But the data was welcomed with relief by investors who had feared a sharper slowdown.
"A slowdown in China seems to be at a very moderate and controlled pace and that's positive for the market," Ronny Claeys, senior strategist at KBC Asset Management in Brussels, said. "The German survey showing investors, who drive the market, are optimistic also helped European equities."
In addition, the market was also aided by broad expectations that the ECB is set to unveil a programme to print money and buy bonds when it meets on Thursday in a bid to revive the euro zone economy and inflation.
Many European stock indexes have hit new highs, with Germany's DAX setting a new record peak on Tuesday, on expectations of the ECB's quantitative easing. Analysts said that any disappointment would hit the market very hard.
"If the ECB does disappoint on Thursday by not providing full details of the purchase plan or including only certain investment grade bonds...the equity market could take a massive plunge," Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at Ava Trade, said.
Among other markets, Greek stocks lost ground again, with Athens's ATG falling 0.8 percent after two opinion polls showed anti-bailout opposition party Syriza was gaining momentum before Sunday's election, moving further ahead of the conservatives that lead the coalition.
Danish stocks also underperformed, with the OMX Copenhagen 20 index up 0.3 percent. Denmark's central bank cut its certificate of deposit and lending rates by 0.15 percentage points on Monday to stop the crown strengthening after the Swiss franc's cap to the euro was scrapped last week.
However, Danish enzyme maker Novozymes was a top gainer, surging 5.5 percent. Traders cited a new buyback programme as one of the catalysts.
Dutch firm Philips gained 3.3 percent on a report saying private equity groups had signalled interest in the group's lighting division.
In London, Unilever fell 1.3 percent after posting lower-than-expected fourth-quarter underlying sales growth, while Europe's largest software group, Germany's SAP SE , was down 4.4 percent after cutting its 2017 operating profit outlook.