European Stocks Rise Most in a Month as AstraZeneca Gains

European stocks advanced, with the Stoxx Europe 600 Index climbing the most in more than a month, as U.S. and U.K. markets reopened following a public holiday.

AstraZeneca Plc rose to its highest price since 2006 after the U.K.’s second-biggest drugmaker agreed to buy Omthera Pharmaceuticals Inc. for $323 million. Victrex Plc climbed to the highest price since its initial public offering in 1995. Aixtron SE jumped 7.8 percent after Natixis recommended buying the maker of equipment for the semiconductor industry.

The Stoxx 600 increased 1.3 percent to 308.23 at the close of trading, extending its rally this month to 3.9 percent. The gauge has climbed for 12 consecutive months, its longest winning streak since 1997. The equity benchmark has rallied 10 percent so far in 2013, its best start to a year since 1998, as central banks around the world maintained a combination of monetary stimulus and low interest rates.

“Private investors are reducing their large cash position in favor of equities,” said Andreas Nigg, head of equity and commodity strategy at Vontobel Asset Management in Zurich. “We could be at a bottom and inflection point with regards to economic releases from Europe.”

European stocks extended gains after a report from the Conference Board showed that U.S. consumer confidence rose to 76.2 in May, the highest level since February 2008. Economists had predicted that the measure would advance to 71.2.

Property Prices

In a separate release, the S&P/Case-Shiller house-price index gained 1.1 percent in March, compared with the 1 percent average projection of economists in a Bloomberg News survey. That means house prices have climbed 10.9 percent from a year earlier, their biggest jump since April 2006.

“We continue to see a large risk appetite,” said Martin Schlatter, a fund manager at Swiss Rock Asset Management AG in Zurich, which oversees about 1 billion Swiss francs ($1.03 billion). “Many investors have been missing the rally in equity markets and are waiting for an entry. Last week’s slump didn’t create a fundamentally new situation. Stocks are still significantly more attractive than bonds.”

National benchmark indexes rose in every western-European market except for Greece and Iceland. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 surged 1.6 percent. France’s CAC 40 rose 1.4 percent and Germany’s DAX advanced 1.2 percent.

AstraZeneca climbed 2.7 percent to 3,521.5 pence. The company agreed to buy the U.S. developer of an experimental treatment for patients with high levels of triglycerides, a contributory factor to heart attacks and strokes. AstraZeneca’s cholesterol-lowering drug, Crestor, will face competition from generic treatments in the U.S. from 2016.

Victrex, Aixtron

Victrex surged 8.4 percent to 1,765 pence. The U.K. maker of heat-resistant plastics for the auto, energy and health-care industries raised its interim dividend by 15 percent to 10.35 pence per share. Revenue climbed 1 percent in the first half to 106.4 million pounds ($160 million) from a year earlier.

Aixtron jumped 7.8 percent to 13.57 euros, its highest price in more than a year. Natixis raised the stock to buy from neutral, citing a rebounding LED industry that the company should benefit from.

Cie. Financiere Richemont SA, the owner of the Cartier brand, added 3 percent to 91.65 francs. Switzerland’s watch exports increased 5.7 percent in April from a year earlier, the country’s Federal Customs Offices said today.

Seadrill Gains

Seadrill Ltd. climbed 2.1 percent to 241.10 kroner. The offshore drilling company controlled by billionaire John Fredriksen said earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization amounted to $713 million in the first quarter. That exceeded the average analyst estimate of $609 million. Seadrill also raised its dividend to 88 cents from 86 cents.

Basilea Pharmaceutica AG jumped 6.8 percent to 72.40 francs after saying that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted orphan-drug status for one of its treatments. The designation gives Basilea the right to sell its drug without competition for seven years and benefit from tax incentives.

Evraz Plc dropped 1.6 percent to 143.9 pence. Eurasian Natural Resources Corp. declined 2.7 percent to 248 pence.

Telefonica Deutschland Holding AG fell 3.1 percent to 5.74 euros. Chief Executive Officer Rene Schuster ruled out a merger with Royal KPN NV’s E-Plus wireless unit in Germany in the near future, Handelsblatt reported, citing an interview.

Pfeiffer Vacuum Technology AG tumbled 18 percent to 79.99 euros, its biggest slide since at least 1998, after forecasting full-year revenue of 420 million euros to 450 million euros. That trailed the average analyst estimate of 461 million euros for the maker of vacuum pumps.

“This slowdown in sales will affect our efforts to improve profitability,” Chief Executive Officer Manfred Bender said at an annual shareholders’ meeting.

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