Europe Stocks Rise as Stoxx 600 Extends Third Weekly Gain

European stocks climbed, extending a third consecutive weekly gain, as the Stoxx Europe 600 Index rose to its highest level in six years.

Vodafone Group Plc rose 3 percent as UBS AG said the mobile-phone operator may attract potential bidders after the sale of its stake in Verizon Wireless. Valeo SA jumped 13 percent after the French auto-parts maker posted six-month earnings that beat analyst estimates. Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc added 1.2 percent as the Financial Times said that the lender will exit its riskier investment-banking businesses.

The Stoxx 600 rose 0.4 percent to 336.09 at the close of trading, for a 0.8 percent weekly gain. The gauge has rallied 5.8 percent since Feb. 4 as Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s pledge to continue her predecessor’s approach to stimulus policy fueled optimism that the U.S. economic recovery can withstand reduced monthly bond purchases.

“The fact that equity markets are back to near recent highs only proves that there is sufficient interest and capital going forward to support them,” said William Hobbs, the London-based head of equity strategy at Barclays Plc’s wealth-management unit. “It’s not worth betting against a global economic recovery. Equities are the only game in town unless you really question the U.S. growth picture.”

The number of shares changing hands in Stoxx 600-listed companies was 11 percent lower than the 30-day average, according to data compiled by Bloomberg based on volumes at this time of the day.

National Benchmarks

National benchmark indexes climbed in 16 of 18 western-European market today. Germany’s DAX gained 0.4 percent, France’s CAC 40 added 0.6 percent and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 advanced 0.4 percent.

Vodafone rose 3 percent to 236.5 pence. The telecommunications company’s adjusted valuation after the disposal of its stake in Verizon Wireless may make it an attractive target for AT&T Inc., according to UBS analyst Nick Lyall. AT&T said on Jan. 27 it does not plan to make an offer for the U.K. wireless carrier, meaning it can’t offer to buy a stake of 30 percent or more in Vodafone for the following six months, according to U.K. takeover rules.

Valeo added 13 percent to 99.07 euros, its highest price since 1998, after saying earnings before interest, taxes and other expenses rose 16 percent to 411 million euros ($564 million) in the second half of 2013. That beat the 375 million-euro average of three analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

RBS Advances

RBS increased 1.2 percent to 360.1 pence. The government-owned bank also plans to exit most of its U.S. and Asian markets and may cut as much as a quarter of its 120,000 employees in the coming years, the Financial Times reported, citing people it didn’t identify. RBS will announce a strategic review when it reports annual earnings on Feb. 27, Yuk Min Hui, a Hong Kong-based spokeswoman, wrote in an e-mail.

Technip SA rose 2.5 percent to 71.74 euros, capping its largest two-day increase since May 2009. Societe Generale SA upgraded its rating on the stock to buy from neutral, saying Europe’s largest oilfield-services provider may begin to reduce costs as it introduces tighter controls on spending.

Kering SA slipped 2.3 percent to 151.45 euros. Sales at the Gucci brand, which made up about 37 percent of total revenue in 2013, rose 0.2 percent in the final three months of last year, according to a statement. That was the slowest quarterly growth in four years and trailed the 0.8 percent increase projected by analysts. Kering said recurring operating income fell to 1.75 billion euros in 2013 from 1.79 billion euros a year earlier. Analysts had predicted 1.77 billion euros.

SGL Carbon

SGL Carbon SE dropped 4 percent to 29.21 euros after saying operating earnings will probably decline this year if the market doesn’t improve. The maker of graphite electrodes, which transmit electricity used to melt iron and recycled steel, also said it won’t pay a dividend for 2013 after posting a loss of about 400 million euros for the year.

Elekta AB slumped 9.9 percent, the most since March 2007, to 90.50 kronor. The manufacturer of medical products used in cancer and neurological treatments said net sales in the current year will probably increase 7 percent, less than a Dec. 4 forecast for growth of at least 10 percent. Earnings before interest, taxes, and amortization will rise 3 percent in the full year, also lower than the 10 percent increase previously predicted.