European Stocks Climb After Weekly Gain as Novartis Rises

European advanced, after the biggest weekly gain in more than a month, as investors awaited economic data out of Europe and America later this week.

Novartis AG climbed 3.5 percent after the Swiss drugmaker said the last phase of a clinical trial showed a treatment for chronic heart failure helped patients live longer. Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA jumped to a 14-month high after its biggest investor said it is selling an additional stake. RWE AG lost 1.3 percent after UBS AG recommended avoiding the stock.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index added 0.2 percent to 334.31 at the close of trading in London. The gauge rose 1.8 percent last week amid better-than-forecast confidence data from Europe to the U.S. It has fallen 1.1 percent this month, paring the quarter’s gain to 1.8 percent, amid tension between Russia and the West over Ukraine’s Crimea region.

“Employment reports are the most important driver for the interest-rate expectations in the U.S. at the moment, so investors will eagerly be awaiting the data this week,” said Christian Zogg, who manages about $540 million as head of equity and fixed income at LLB Asset Management AG in Vaduz, Liechtenstein. “Our base scenario is that the economy continuously recovers, with the U.S. at the front and Europe a bit slower. With the Crimea crisis in the background, markets find support at the beginning of this week.”

U.S. Payrolls

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said the central bank’s unprecedented accommodation will be needed for “some time” as the labor market is still recovering. Investors await payroll data due April 4, which will probably show that hiring accelerated in March, according to economists’ forecasts compiled by Bloomberg.

Separate reports this week may show that manufacturing in the world’s largest economy expanded further this month, while factory orders rebounded in February, according to economists’ forecasts in Bloomberg News surveys.

On April 3, the European Central Bank will probably maintain its key interest rate at a record low of 0.25 percent, economists’ projections show.

In Germany, a report showed today that retail sales rose 1.3 percent last month after a revised 1.7 percent gain in January. Economists in a Bloomberg News survey had forecast a 0.5 percent drop for February. Separate data showed inflation in the euro area slowed this month more than forecast, keeping pressure on the ECB to take action.

National benchmark indexes advanced in 15 of the 18 western-European markets today. France’s CAC 40 slipped 0.5 percent, while Germany’s DAX and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 each dropped 0.3 percent.

Greater Volume

The volume of shares changing hands in Stoxx 600 companies was 16 percent greater than the average of the last 30 days, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Novartis gained 3.5 percent, the most since January 2013, to 75 Swiss francs. The company ended the drug trial early as the results showed patients treated with it lived longer without being hospitalized for heart failure than those who received standard treatment. Novartis will ask global regulators for marketing approval for the drug.

Monte dei Paschi jumped 4.9 percent to 26.5 euro cents. Fondazione Monte dei Paschi di Siena said it agreed to sell a 6.5 percent stake in the Italian bank to Fintech Advisory Inc. and BTG Pactual Europe LLP. Antonella Mansi, the foundation’s chairman, said the investor pact creates a stable, strategic shareholding for the lender. The non-profit foundation sold 12 percent of Monte dei Paschi earlier this month as it sought to reduce debt.

Banks Climb

Banks in the Stoxx 600 jumped 0.9 percent for the biggest gain among 19 industry groups. Banco Popolare SC surged 16 percent to 15.78 euros, the highest price since April 2011, and Banca Popolare di Sondrio Scarl climbed 7.7 percent, the biggest gain in 11 months, to 4.93 euros.

ING Groep NV climbed 2.8 percent to 10.28 euros after saying it intends to resume dividend payments as soon as next year after a five-year pause. The Dutch financial-services company will pay a dividend over 2015 after fully repaying a 2008 government bailout by next May at the latest. Dividend payouts should grow to at least 40 percent of net income by 2017, ING said.

Drillisch AG added 2.8 percent to 26.34 euros. Chief Executive Officer Paschalis Choulidis told Welt am Sonntag the provider of phone services may pay a special dividend or buy back shares if it doesn’t make acquisitions by 2015.

Delhaize Group advanced 2.7 percent to 53.05 euros after JPMorgan Chase & Co. raised the owner of the U.S. Food Lion stores to overweight from neutral, meaning investors should buy the shares. JPMorgan cited sales growth in the U.S.

RWE lost 1.3 percent to 29.46 euros. UBS listed Germany’s largest power generator among its European utility stocks to avoid, citing weak growth. The company sold its Dea oil and gas unit to L1 Energy, and the German government said today that it had no objections to the sale.

A gauge of utility companies declined 0.5 percent, with CEZ AS retreating 2 percent to 571 koruna and SSE Plc falling 2.8 percent to 1,469 pence.

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