European stocks gained as data showed the jobless rate in the U.S. unexpectedly dropped last month even as payrolls were depressed by winter storms.
YIT Oyj rallied 10 percent as profit also beat forecasts. Enel SpA gained 1 percent as earnings topped estimates. William Morrison Supermarkets Plc, the U.K.’s fourth-largest supermarket chain and Munich Re, the world’s biggest reinsurer, rallied as analysts upgraded their recommendations on the stocks. LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA slid 2.4 percent after operating profit failed to exceed analysts’ estimates.
The Stoxx Europe 600 Index rose 0.3 percent to 285.9 at the 4:30 p.m. close in London as almost two shares gained for each one that fell. The measure has surged 23 percent since its low in May 2010 amid optimism that the U.S. economy is strengthening and as European governments implemented policies to support indebted countries using the single currency.
“The drop in the unemployment rate was clearly a massive change and has to be welcomed,” said Philippe Gijsels, the Brussels-based head of research at BNP Paribas Fortis Global Markets. “Still, the job market remains fairly weak and this remains the focal point for the Federal Reserve, for them to continue on the path of quantitative easing.”
National benchmark indexes rose in 13 of the 18 western European markets. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 advanced 0.2 percent, while Germany’s DAX rose 0.3 percent. France’s CAC advanced 0.3 percent.
The Stoxx 600 has gained 1.9 percent this week, rebounding from a two-week retreat even as investors continued to speculate that protests against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak may destabilize the region.
Egyptian protesters poured out of Friday prayer services and filled Cairo’s Tahrir Square on what demonstrators called the “day of departure.”
Tens of thousands gathered to sing the national anthem and chant slogans against Mubarak, repeatedly calling the president and his regime “illegitimate.” One held a sign reading: “Game Over.” Many brought their children in a sign of the changed mood after Mubarak supporters yesterday attacked protesters, journalists and observers, leaving several people dead.
In the U.S., unemployment declined to 9 percent last month from 9.4 percent in December, the Labor Department said today in Washington. Employment rose by 36,000 workers, the smallest gain in four months, after a 121,000 rise in December that was larger than initially reported. Payrolls were projected to climb 146,000, according to the median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey.
YIT rallied 10 percent to 19.63 euros as Finland’s biggest builder reported fourth-quarter net income of 81.5 million euros, beating the 60.4 million-euro mean estimate of eight analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.
Enel, Italy’s biggest energy company, said earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization increased to 17.5 billion euros ($23.9 billion) from 16.4 billion euros a year earlier. That beat the 17 billion-euro mean estimate of 31 analysts surveyed. The stock gained 1 percent to 4.22 euros.
Taylor Wimpey Plc, the U.K.’s second-largest homebuilder by volume, advanced 6.9 percent to 37.41 pence. U.K. house prices unexpectedly rose in January as fewer homeowners put their properties up for sale, squeezing supply, according to a report from Halifax.
Separately, Fitch Ratings Ltd. revised Taylor Wimpey’ outlook to “positive.”
Morrison, Munich Re
Morrison climbed 2.8 percent to 278.9 pence. Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. raised the shares to “outperform” from “market perform” and UBS AG upgraded the company to “buy” from “neutral.”
Munich Re advanced 2.7 percent to 120.20 euros. The shares were raised to “overweight” at JPMorgan.
Barclays Plc and Unicredit SpA advanced as equity strategists at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. upgraded the region’s banks to “overweight.” Barclays, the U.K.’s third biggest bank, climbed 2.4 percent to 308.1 pence. UniCredit, Italy’s largest, advanced 2.1 percent, to 1.88 euros.
Teleperformance surged 6.4 percent to 28 euros as the customer-services provider said fourth-quarter revenue rose to 588.1 million euros from 475.5 million euros a year earlier.
Grifols SA advanced 5 percent to 11.89 euros as Europe’s largest maker of blood-plasma products agreed with U.S. regulators to extend the deadline for antitrust approval of the $3.6 billion purchase of Talecris Biotherapeutics Holdings Corp. until March 6.
LVMH, the world’s largest maker of luxury goods, slid 2.4 percent to 114.05 euros after 2010 operating profit failed to beat analysts’ estimates. Yara International ASA sank 2.4 percent to 328 kronor as it forecast earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization of about 3 billion kroner ($523 million) for the fourth quarter. That was less than analysts’ estimates.
Nordea Bank AB retreated 5.2 percent to 74.35 kronor. Sweden sold part of its stake in the Nordic region’s largest lender in a move that will reduce state debt by as much as $3 billion.
Neste Oil Oyj sank 6.4 percent to 13.23 euros as Finland’s only oil refiner said it sees steeper operating loss at its renewable fuels unit this quarter than in the final three months of last year. The company also said it expects a full-year operating loss at the unit.
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