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Europe Stocks Rise, Extending Biggest Weekly Gain in Six Months

European stocks rose for a third day, extending the Stoxx Europe 600 Index’s biggest weekly gain since September, as American technology companies posted better-than-estimated earnings and U.S. growth was revised higher.

SAP AG, the world’s largest maker of business-management software, climbed 1.9 percent after better-than-expected forecasts from Oracle Corp. and Accenture Plc. Cie. de Saint-Gobain SA led construction stocks higher following gains made by the industry in Asia. Societe Television Francaise 1 paced declining shares, dropping more than 3 percent in Paris amid concern about increased competition from Canal Plus SA.

The Stoxx 600 advanced 0.1 percent to 276.02 at the 4:30 p.m. close in London, the highest close since March 10. The index, which tumbled the most in eight months last week amid concern that Japan’s March 11 earthquake would lead to a nuclear meltdown, has rebounded 3.1 percent over the past five days.

“The situation in Japan was quickly stabilized,” said Matthieu Giuliani, a fund manager at Palatine Asset Management in Paris, which oversees $5.6 billion. “Many investors were looking for an entry point. Valuations aren’t high and that’s a support for stocks, but there isn’t anything to get overly excited about.”

The Stoxx 600 has still fallen 5.2 percent from this year’s high on Feb. 17. That’s left the gauge trading at about 13.5 times its companies’ reported earnings, near the cheapest since 2009, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

National Indexes

National benchmark indexes rose in 11 of the 17 western European markets that were open. France’s CAC 40 added 0.1 percent, the U.K.’s FTSE rose 0.3 percent and Germany’s DAX climbed 0.2 percent. Greek markets were closed for a holiday.

The U.S. economy grew at a 3.1 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter, led by a jump in consumer spending. The revised increase in gross domestic product compares with a 2.8 percent estimate issued last month, figures from the Commerce Department showed today.

European Union leaders are concluding a two-day meeting on the region’s fiscal crisis in Brussels today. Portugal continued to rule out a rescue after the parliament’s rejection of budget cuts led Prime Minister Jose Socrates to offer his resignation on March 23. A bailout may total as much as 70 billion euros ($99 billion), two European officials with direct knowledge of the matter said, as credit-rating cuts threatened to deepen Portugal’s debt woes.

Japan Crisis

In Japan, the nuclear regulator said one reactor core at the quake-damaged Fukushima Dai-Ichi power plant may be cracked and leaking radiation. Prime Minister Naoto Kan told a press conference that efforts to bring the situation under control haven’t yet reached a stage where the government can let down its guard.

SAP gained 1.9 percent to 42.95 euros after Accenture, the world’s second-largest technology-consulting company, gave a sales forecast for this quarter that exceeded analysts’ estimates and Oracle projected fourth-quarter profit that topped analysts’ predictions.

Atos Origin SA, France’s second-biggest provider of computer services, added 2 percent to 43.29 euros.

Construction stocks climbed, following gains in Asia, amid optimism that demand would increase as Japan rebuilds. Saint-Gobain, Europe’s biggest provider of building materials, increased 1.1 percent to 43.46 euros. Holcim Ltd., the second-largest cement maker, rose 1.3 percent to 69.15 Swiss francs.

French Broadcasters

TF1, owner of France’s most popular TV channel, dropped 3.5 percent to 12.97 euros and M6-Metropole Television SA declined 1.5 percent to 18.20 euros. Analysts said the broadcasters will face increased competition for advertising revenue after Canal Plus announced plans to start its own free channel.

HMV Group Plc surged 4.5 percent to 17.5 pence as Sky News reported that the company has been approached by, among others, Hilco U.K. Ltd., a specialist in distressed retailers. HMV said that, while it’s looking at options for its Waterstone’s bookstores and Canadian outlets, there have been no talks.

Drax Group Plc, owner of the U.K.’s largest power station, climbed 4.2 percent to 387.4 pence, rebounding from four days of losses. Britain’s new tax on carbon-dioxide may fail to reduce power generation from coal, according to Evolution Securities.

Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc increased 3.1 percent to 3,160 pence as the maker of Nurofen painkillers was raised to “buy” from “neutral” at BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research.

Credit Agricole SA rallied 2 percent to 12.18 euros after Exane BNP Paribas initiated coverage of France’s third-largest lender with an “outperform” recommendation.

Eurazeo jumped 4.1 percent to 55.27 euros. France’s largest publicly traded private-equity firm said 2010 net income was 115 million euros, reversing a restated 200.9 million-euro loss in the year earlier.

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