European Stocks Rise After Two-Day Drop as Carmakers Gain

European stocks advanced, after the region’s equities posted their first back-to-back losses in more than three weeks, as carmakers climbed.

Daimler AG rose as its chief executive officer predicted significant profit growth this year. Wirecard AG jumped 5.8 percent as a broker recommended buying the stock as the company confirmed its 2014 forecast and increased its annual dividend. Norsk Hydro ASA added 1.9 percent as U.S. peer Alcoa Inc. posted a higher-than-projected quarterly profit and reiterated its forecast for global aluminum demand to grow 7 percent this year.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index gained 0.4 percent to 335.16 at the close of trading. The gauge has slipped 1.2 percent from a six-year high reached on April 4 as investors sold the region’s best-performing stocks and tension escalated between the U.S. and Russia over the future of Ukraine. The equity benchmark gauge has advanced 2.1 percent in 2014.

“We’re at a key point in the market when you need to assess whether you are paying what you should be paying,” Francois Savary, who helps oversee about $9.6 billion as chief investment officer at Reyl & Cie, said by phone from Geneva. “Companies’ earnings guidance, starting in the U.S., will be a good indicator of this. Valuations are fair, and there’s still liquidity waiting to be invested. Sentiment is still high but you need earnings and economic growth to accelerate.”

Lower Volume

The number of shares changing hands today in Stoxx 600-listed companies was 17 percent lower than the average of the past 30 days, data compiled by Bloomberg showed. The gauge traded at 14.7 times its member’s projected earnings at today’s close.

The Federal Reserve releases minutes of its March 18-19 gathering after the finish of European trading today. Officials dropped a link between the benchmark U.S. interest rate and a specific level of employment at the meeting. The committee instead said it will look at indicators including labor market conditions, inflation expectations and financial markets, according to Fed Chair Janet Yellen.

National benchmark indexes rose in 15 of the 18 western European markets. Germany’s DAX gained 0.2 percent, France’s CAC 40 added 0.4 percent and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 jumped 0.7 percent.

A gauge of European carmakers posted the biggest gain of the 19 industry groups on the Stoxx 600. Daimler rose 0.8 percent to 70.43 euros. CEO Dieter Zetsche said his expansion of Mercedes-Benz model offerings will enable the third-largest maker of luxury cars to beat competitors’ sales growth and raise operating profit significantly in 2014.

Volkswagen, Porsche

Volkswagen AG climbed 3.6 percent to 196.70 euros and Porsche Automobil Holding SE added 4.4 percent to 78.92 euros. Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. raised its ratings on both stocks to outperform, similar to buy, from market perform, citing the potential for a recovery in Europe and cheaper valuation multiples relative to rival Bayerische Motoren Werke AG. Volkswagen trades at 8.8 times projected earnings and Porsche trades at 7.3 times, compared with BMW’s 10.6 multiple.

Wirecard jumped 5.8 percent to 30.05 euros, rebounding from its biggest two-day drop since October 2011. The provider of online payment services said it will propose an annual dividend of 12 euro cents a share, up from last year’s 11 euro cents. Hauck & Aufhaeuser Privatbankiers KGaA upgraded its rating on the stock to buy from hold, after Wirecard also confirmed its 2014 outlook for earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.

Kingfisher Advances

Kingfisher Plc increased 3.3 percent to 436.4 pence. UBS AG raised its rating on Europe’s largest home-improvement company to buy from neutral, citing the possibility of higher profits from its potential acquisition of Mr Bricolage SA in France.

Norsk Hydro rose 1.9 percent to 30.19 kroner. Alcoa posted first-quarter profit excluding restructuring costs and other one-time items of 9 cents a share, beating the 5-cent average analyst estimate. The U.S. producer of the metal forecast a global supply deficit this year of 730,000 metric tons, compared with the January estimate of a 106,000-ton surplus.

Chr. Hansen Holding A/S climbed 7.9 percent to a record 231.30 kroner. The maker of dairy enzymes reiterated its full-year outlook even as second-quarter earnings missed forecasts.

Arseus NV slipped 1.1 percent to 36.90 euros. The company’s largest shareholder, Waterland Private Equity Investments BV, sold its entire 27 percent stake in the Belgian supplier of dental equipment for 35 euros a share.

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