European Stocks Climb to 4 1/2-Year High on U.S. Payrolls

European stocks rallied to a 4 1/2-year high as U.S. payrolls rose more than forecast, sending the jobless rate in the world’s biggest economy to the lowest since 2008, and Chinese exports increased.

Fugro NV surged the most in four years after the deepwater-oilfield surveyor posted full-year earnings that beat analysts’ estimates. Lagardere SCA climbed to its highest since July 2011 after swinging to profit in 2012. Clariant AG slid 2.4 percent as Nomura Holdings Inc. downgraded the chemical maker’s shares.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index added 0.8 percent to 295.55 at the close of trading, the highest level since June 2008. The benchmark gauge has gained 2.3 percent this week, the biggest jump since the first week of the year, amid optimism that central banks around the world will continue stimulus measures to support economic recovery.

“The payrolls number is significantly better than expected, implying that the underlying growth in the U.S. is strong,” said Espen Furnes, who helps oversee $75 billion as a fund manager at Storebrand Asset Management in Oslo. “This gives good support to the rising equity markets and the increasing optimism for outlook for 2013 and beyond.”

U.S. payrolls increased more than forecast in February, a Labor Department report showed. An additional 236,000 workers were hired last month, exceeding the 165,000 median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg. The jobless rate unexpectedly fell to 7.7 percent, the lowest since December 2008.

The volume of Stoxx 600 shares changing hands was 14 percent greater than the average of the last 30 days, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

National Indexes

National benchmark indexes climbed in all 18 western European markets, except Ireland. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 rose 0.7 percent to a five-year high and Germany’s DAX added 0.6 percent. France’s CAC 40 jumped 1.2 percent.

In Japan, gross domestic product rose an annualized 0.2 percent in the three months through December, the Cabinet Office said in Tokyo. That compares with a preliminary calculation of a 0.4 percent contraction.

China’s exports increased 21.8 percent in February from a year earlier, the customs administration said today. That beat the 8.1 percent median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey.

Fugro jumped 14 percent to 42.59 euros, the biggest gain since March 2009, after reporting full-year net income of 292 million euros ($382 million), beating the average analyst estimate of 282 million euros.

Lagardere added 4.8 percent to 28.81 euros after France’s largest publisher posted 2012 net income of 89 million euros, compared with a loss of 707 million euros a year earlier.

Credit Suisse

Credit Suisse Group AG advanced 3.9 percent to 25.97 Swiss francs after UBS AG raised its recommendation on Switzerland’s second-biggest bank to buy from neutral, citing its “solid” capital ratios and dividend outlook.

DNB ASA climbed 4.5 percent to 92.50 kroner, its highest price since at least 1992, after Norway’s largest bank said it will raise lending rates by as much as 0.3 percent because of stricter government regulation.

Bankia SA gained 3.1 percent to 27 euro cents after Expansion reported the lender is in talks with 20 funds to sell its real estate platform Bankia Habitat.

Clariant slipped 35 centimes to 14.32 Swiss francs after Nomura lowered its recommendation on the shares to reduce from buy. Investors should take profits as the stock looks expensive after a rally in the last three months, analysts led by James Curran wrote in a report.

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