Europe Stocks Rise for Fourth Day; Marks & Spencer Climbs

European stocks climbed, with the benchmark Stoxx Europe 600 Index posting the biggest four-day gain since early January, as a report showed American unemployment claims fell more than forecast.

Marks & Spencer Group Plc climbed the most in three weeks after posting sales growth that exceeded projections. Ashmore Group Plc jumped the most in almost 4 1/2 years as the assets under its management increased. Eurasian Natural Resources Corp. dropped 4.7 percent after a report that its chairman has threatened to quit. Evraz Plc declined the most since November 2011 as it refrained from announcing a final dividend for 2012.

The Stoxx 600 added 0.6 percent to 294.96 at the close of trading, for the longest winning streak since Jan. 4. The benchmark measure has rallied 2.7 percent this week, erasing its losses this month. The Stoxx 600 has climbed 5.5 percent so far this year as U.S. lawmakers agreed on a compromise budget and data on housing and jobs fueled optimism the world’s biggest economy is recovering.

“We’ve clearly got the equity markets underpinned by the continuation of quantitative easing in the States and the aggressive easing of monetary policy in Japan,” Bob Parker, who helps oversee about $400 billion as senior adviser at Credit Suisse Asset Management in London, told Francine Lacqua on Bloomberg Television. “If we do have a correction -- and I use the word ‘if’ -- it’s going to be very minor indeed.”

National benchmark indexes climbed in all of the 18 western European markets except Portugal. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index rose 0.5 percent, while France’s CAC 40 Index jumped 0.9 percent and Germany’s DAX Index gained 0.8 percent.

American Jobs

U.S. initial jobless claims dropped by 42,000 to 346,000 in the week ended April 6, from a revised 388,000 in the previous week, Labor Department figures showed in Washington. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had called for a drop to 360,000.

The ECB said it will look for signs in economic data that inflation could slow more than it currently anticipates.

“In the coming weeks, the Governing Council will monitor very closely all incoming information on economic and monetary developments and assess any impact on the outlook for price stability,” the ECB said in its monthly bulletin today, echoing President Mario Draghi’s April 4 policy statement. “The monetary policy stance will remain accommodative for as long as needed.”

Marks & Spencer rose 4.3 percent to 400.4 pence, its biggest gain since March 18. The U.K.’s largest clothing retailer reported faster sales growth than analysts projected. Food revenue at U.K. stores open at least a year climbed 4 percent in the 13 weeks ended March 30, topping the 2.5 percent median estimate of 13 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Ashmore Assets

Ashmore jumped 13 percent to 401 pence, the most since October 2008. 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 under management increased to 9.4 percent to $77.7 billion.

Axa SA climbed 1.6 percent to 13.93 euros after the Paris-based insurer agreed to sell a U.S. unit to Protective Life Corp. for $1.06 billion. Axa is selling Mony Life Insurance Co. and transferring some obligations to Birmingham, Alabama-based Protective, the companies said today in separate statements.

Man Group Plc jumped 6.8 percent to 104.3 pence. The world’s largest publicly traded hedge-fund manager said it no longer needs to hold a $300 million capital buffer after it confirmed with the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority a change in the company’s regulatory status.

Hays Outlook

Hays Plc gained 8.4 percent to 101.2 pence, the highest price in 21 months, after the recruiter forecast operating profit for the full-year ending in June will be near the upper end of a 112.3 million-pound ($173 million) to 122.5 million-pound range.

ENRC fell 4.7 percent to 257.1 pence. Chairman Mehmet Dalman, who is leading an internal probe into fraud allegations over the company’s assets in Kazakhstan, may leave after disagreements with other company executives, the Financial Times reported, without citing anyone.

Evraz plunged 11 percent to 185.8 pence, the most since Russia’s biggest steelmaker began trading in London in November 2011. The company’s board of directors refrained from announcing a final dividend, citing deteriorating market environment and a weaker second-half performance.

Chr Hansen Holding A/S plunged 7.4 percent to 196.5 kroner, the biggest drop since the world’s biggest maker of dairy enzymes sold shares to the public in June 2010, after reporting second-quarter earnings that missed analyst estimates.