European Stocks Post Fourth Weekly Gain on Results, U.K.

European stocks rose for a fourth week as earnings from Cie. Financiere Richemont SA to ICAP Plc beat analyst estimates and the Bank of England lifted its growth forecast for Europe’s third-biggest economy.

Richemont gained 13 percent as it also proposed a dividend that surpassed projections. Renault SA led shares of automobile companies higher as the region’s car sales increased for the first time in 19 months. Suedzucker AG plunged 16 percent after saying full-year operating profit will decline.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index advanced 1.2 percent to 308.72 this week, completing its longest streak of weekly gains since March 15. The measure has rallied 10 percent so far in 2013, its best start to a year since 1998, bolstered by central-bank monetary stimulus and better-than-estimated U.S. economic data.

“Companies have cut costs and have been able to produce better-than-expected earnings,” said Guillaume Duchesne, an equity strategist at BGL BNP Paribas SA in Luxembourg. “There is a new appetite for cyclical sectors with the idea that the economy may improve.”

BOE Governor Mervyn King on May 15 said that an economic recovery in the U.K. was now “in sight”. In the central bank’s quarterly inflation report, King’s last before his retirement in July, officials predicted that growth would accelerate to 0.5 percent in the second quarter from 0.3 percent in the first three months of the year.

Bullish Comments

Stocks erased intraday losses on May 14 after billionaire David Tepper, who runs hedge-fund firm Appaloosa Management LP, said in an interview on CNBC that he was “definitely bullish” about markets.

U.S. data on May 17 showed that American consumer confidence rose in May to the highest level in almost six years and leading economic indicators climbed in April by more than estimated.

Still, German investor confidence rose in May less than forecast, an earlier report showed. The ZEW Center for European Economic Research in Mannheim said its index of investor and analyst expectations, which aims to predict economic developments six months in advance, increased to 36.4 from 36.3 in April. Economists in a Bloomberg News survey had forecast a gain to 40.

National benchmark indexes rallied in all of western Europe’s 18 western markets, except Portugal and Iceland. France’s CAC 40 added 1.2 percent, the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index increased 1.5 percent, while Germany’s DAX Index climbed 1.4 percent.

Richemont Earnings

Richemont gained 13 percent. The owner of the Cartier brand on May 16 reported full-year net income of 2.01 billion euros ($2.58 billion), beating analyst estimates for 1.96 billion euros. The company also proposed a dividend of 1 Swiss franc ($1.03), topping forecasts.

ICAP jumped 13 percent. The world’s largest broker of transactions between banks on May 14 posted a full-year pretax profit before exceptional items of 284 million pounds ($433 million). That was higher than the 280 million pounds the company had forecast March 27.

Renault rallied 17 percent, leading a gauge of European automotive companies to the best performance on the Stoxx 600. PSA Peugeot Citroen, Europe’s second-largest automaker, jumped 15 percent. Daimler AG, the third-biggest maker of luxury cars, climbed 12 percent. Fiat SpA advanced 9.4 percent.

European car sales rose in April, for the first time in 19 months, as a gain in consumer sentiment in countries using the euro led to recovery in Germany and Spain.

National Bank of Greece SA soared 83 percent, its biggest weekly gain in two decades. Fitch Ratings on May 16 upgraded the lender’s credit ratings.

Mediaset Rallies

Mediaset SpA advanced 13 percent. The broadcaster controlled by former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on May 14 expressed confidence it can reach its cost-reduction goal of 450 million euros in its 2012-2014 plan before the end of the period.

Suedzucker tumbled 16 percent. Europe’s largest sugar producer forecast on May 16 that full-year operating profit will fall “significantly” to about 825 million euros.

Vivendi SA dropped 10 percent. Activision Blizzard Inc. was said to have shelved a plan to buy back shares held by its French parent amid a disagreement on price. The world’s largest video-game publisher planned to buy at least part of Vivendi’s stake as recently as last month, people with knowledge of the talks said.

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