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European Stocks Post Largest Weekly Gain in a Month

European stocks posted the biggest weekly advance in more than a month amid speculation that central banks will continue to provide monetary stimulus and as a report showed Chinese imports beat forecasts.

A gauge of lenders climbed, with National Bank of Greece SA rallying 24 percent and Barclays Plc (BARC) advancing 6.9 percent. Man Group Plc, the world’s largest publicly traded hedge-fund manager, surged the most in four years as regulators cut the amount of capital it must hold. Volkswagen AG and Pirelli & C. SpA slid more than 4 percent as auto-industry shares declined.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index (SXXP) rose 1.8 percent to 292.39 this week, even after dropping 0.9 percent yesterday as U.S. retail sales and consumer confidence missed forecasts. The gauge had fallen for three straight weeks, the longest stretch of losses in more than 10 months. The benchmark measure has gained 4.5 percent this year as American lawmakers agreed on a compromise budget and data on housing and jobs fueled optimism the world’s biggest economy is recovering.

“The week was pretty mixed data-wise, but China saved the world,” said Christian Zogg, who manages about $540 million as head of equity and fixed income at LLB Asset Management AG in Vaduz, Liechtenstein. “The poor figures out of Europe and the U.S. at the end of last week suggested that the central banks can run a loose monetary policy for a much longer time. Financial shares got a pretty strong boost from that. Sentiment isn’t exactly euphoric, but stocks offer the best yield on the capital market.”

FTSE, DAX

National benchmark indexes rose in all of the 18 western European markets this week, except Iceland. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 (UKX) added 2.2 percent, while France’s CAC 40 increased 1.8 percent and Germany’s DAX gained 1.1 percent. Greece’s ASE Index surged 13 percent for the biggest jump in nine months and Portugal’s PSI-20 jumped 5.1 percent, the most since September.

The European Central Bank will look for signs in economic data that inflation may slow more than it anticipates and policy will remain loose for “as long as needed,” according to its monthly bulletin released on April 11

China’s imports rose by a better-than-forecast 14.1 percent in March, while export growth slowed to 10 percent , the customs administration said in Beijing. In Germany, exports fell more than economists estimated in February as the euro area, the country’s biggest trading partner, struggled to emerge from recession.

In the U.S., initial jobless-benefit claims declined more than expected, while retail sales dropped then most in nine months and consumer confidence slid to a nine-month low.

Earnings Season

Alcoa Inc., the largest U.S. aluminum producer, unofficially kicked off the American earnings season by posting first-quarter profit excluding some items of 11 cents a share. That beat the 9 cent-average analyst estimate.

National Bank of Greece surged 24 percent and Eurobank Ergasias SA (EUROB) more than doubled. The lenders’ planned merger has been postponed and not canceled, Bank of Greece Governor George Provopoulos said, after statements on April 8 that they will be recapitalized separately.

Barclays, Britain’s second-biggest bank, and Banco Espirito Santo SA, Portugal’s largest bank by market value, rose 6.9 percent and 9.5 percent, respectively, as European banking shares posted their biggest advance in three months.

Man Group soared 20 percent, the most since March 2009. Under a new regulatory status approved by the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority, Man has become a limited license group instead of a full-scale group, the London-based firm said. The change may boost capital to as much as $920 million from $370 million by January, it said.

Ashmore, Volkswagen

Ashmore Group Plc jumped 18 percent, the biggest rally in almost four years, as the assets it oversees increased. The U.K. fund manager that invests in emerging markets reported net inflows of $7.3 billion in the quarter that ended March 31. Assets increased by 9.4 percent to $77.7 billion.

A gauge of carmakers was the only group among 19 in the Stoxx 600 that posted a decline this week. Volkswagen dropped 4.3 percent as Europe’s biggest automaker said global sales growth slowed in March.

Pirelli, the region’s third-largest tiremaker, slumped 11 percent and Continental AG lost 3 percent.

Spirent Communications Plc (SPT) fell 10 percent to a 14-month low. UBS AG downgraded the U.K. maker of telecommunications testing systems to neutral from buy, citing a slower-than- expected recovery after Seattle-based peer F5 Networks Inc. cut its revenue forecasts last week.

To contact the reporter on this story: Corinne Gretler in Zurich at cgretler1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew Rummer at arummer@bloomberg.net

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