European stocks rose, pushing the Stoxx Europe 600 Index toward its longest streak of monthly gains since 1997, as Italy formed a new government and as U.S. consumer spending unexpectedly increased in March.
Aberdeen Asset Management Plc surged to its highest price in 12 years after increasing its dividend. Swedish Match AB jumped the most since January 2009 after posting first-quarter profit that beat estimates. Balfour Beatty Plc dropped to the lowest price in 17 months after lowering its full-year profit forecast.
The Stoxx 600 advanced 0.5 percent to 297.39, its highest level since April 2. The benchmark gauge has climbed 1.2 percent in April, its 11th month of gains, as investors bet the region’s central bank will cut rates and as companies reported better- than-expected results.
“What Europe really needs is growth, and anything that helps that growth narrative is a good thing,” Adrian Bignell, a fund manager at Invesco U.K. Ltd., said in an interview with Mark Barton and Anna Edwards on Bloomberg Television. “The jigsaw is slowly coming together in Europe. Nothing is particularly beautiful, but somehow we seem to muddle through. The Italian government being formed this weekend is a good case in point for one more piece coming into the jigsaw.”
National benchmark indexes advanced in 15 of the 18 western European markets. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 rose 0.5 percent and was poised for the longest streak of monthly gains since 1984. France’s CAC 40 jumped 1.5 percent, while Germany’s DAX rose 0.8 percent. Italy’s FTSE MIB rallied 2.2 percent to the highest level since Feb. 1.
In Italy, Enrico Letta was sworn in as prime minister yesterday, ending political uncertainty after February’s inconclusive elections. Letta formed an alliance with Silvio Berlusconi, who has pledged to undo some parts of previous premier Mario Monti’s budget-cutting measures.
Italy’s 10-year borrowing costs declined to a 2 1/2-year low at an auction today.
Stocks extended gains as a Commerce Department report showed that U.S. household purchases climbed 0.2 percent in March, following a 0.7 percent gain a month earlier. Economists on average had called for spending to be little changed.
The European Central Bank will lower its interest rate at a meeting on May 2, according to economists in a Bloomberg survey. The Bank of England will keep its interest rate unchanged at a policy meeting next week, a separate survey showed.
In the U.S., the Federal Reserve starts a two-day policy meeting tomorrow after data last week showed the world’s largest economy expanded less than forecast.
Aberdeen rose 8 percent to 450.5 pence, its highest price since January 2001, after Scotland’s biggest fund manager reported first-half adjusted pretax profit of 222.8 million pounds ($345 million), surpassing the average analyst projection of 211 million pounds. The company raised its dividend to 6 pence a share.
Swedish Match advanced 6.7 percent to 221.90 kronor as the snuffmaker posted first-quarter net income of 740 million kronor ($113 million), exceeding the 677 million-kronor estimate of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.
Mediaset SpA, owned by Berlusconi, was among the biggest gainers in Italy today, rising 4.7 percent to 1.97 euros. Intesa Sanpaolo SpA added 2.7 percent to 1.39 euros. UniCredit SpA, Italy’s biggest lender, gained 2.5 percent to 4.02 euros.
Ageas climbed 4.8 percent to 27.75 euros. The majority owner of Belgium’s biggest life insurer said it will pay shareholders 1 euro a share as it will receive 1.04 billion euros ($1.36 billion) from the sale of Royal Park Investments’ asset portfolio and 144 million euros from the sale of a call option on BNP Paribas SA’s shares.
Pohjola Bank Plc rose 5.3 percent to 13.34 euros, the highest price since at least 1992, as the Finnish lender said it expects higher consolidated pretax profit in 2013 compared with last year. First-quarter net income rose to 100 million euros, from 80 million euros a year earlier.
Volkswagen AG gained 2.6 percent to 152 euros after reiterating that 2013 operating profit will match the 1.14 billion euros posted last year. The Porsche brand, which was integrated into the company in August, offset a profit drop at its Audi division as it generated 24 percent of total earnings, according to a statement.
Balfour Beatty tumbled 9.5 percent to 222.9 pence, its lowest price since November 2011, as the U.K.’s largest construction company said 2013 operating profit will be 50 million pounds less than it had projected earlier.
Aker Solutions ASA plummeted 21 percent to 83.50 kroner, the biggest slump since October 2008, after saying first-quarter profit will miss analysts’ estimates by more than 20 percent.
Fiat SpA (F) declined 1.2 percent to 4.64 euros after the Italian automaker said profit fell 23 percent to 618 million euros in the first quarter from a year earlier. Analysts had projected a drop to 691 million euros, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
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