* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.6 pct, hits 7-year high
* German GDP grew by 0.7 pct in Q4, more than expected
* ArcelorMittal rises as details on debt reassure
* Half way into earnings season, strong results so far
By Blaise Robinson
PARIS, Feb 13 (Reuters) - European shares rose in early trading on Friday, with robust growth figures from Germany sending the country’s blue-chip DAX index to a record high.
Greek banking stocks jumped 17 percent, extending their recent rebound from a 75 percent slump since last March, as investors held out hope that a meeting on Monday could see Athens reach a deal with its creditors.
National Bank of Greece was up 16 percent and Bank of Piraeus up 14 percent, while the leading ATG index gained 6.6 percent.
L‘Oreal also gained ground, up 1.9 percent after the world’s biggest cosmetics group posted better-than-expected sales growth.
Shares in Aker Solutions surged 9 percent after the Norwegian oil services firm posted fourth-quarter earnings well above expectations.
Half way into Europe’s earnings season, results have been strong overall, with 55 percent of companies listed on the STOXX 600 exceeding analyst forecasts, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S data. In a typical quarter, 48 percent of companies beat estimates. Fourth quarter earnings are expected to grow 20.3 percent.
“The surprisingly robust figure from Germany is fuelling the hopes that Europe is finally turning the corner. With the excellent earnings season we have, we just needed a bit of improvement on the macro front to revive the rally, and now we have it,” Saxo Bank trader Pierre Martin said.
At 0913 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was up 0.6 percent at 1,501.92 points, hitting a seven-year high. Germany’s DAX was up 0.7 percent, trading at a record high.
Data from Germany showed the economy grew by 0.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014, much stronger than expected, with domestic demand lifting Europe’s largest economy out of its mid-year lull and boosting growth for the whole of last year to 1.6 percent.
Shares in ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest producer of steel, was up 1.8 percent, reversing early losses. The group said on Friday its profit would fall in 2015, rather than improve as expected, although details about the group’s debt reassured investors.
“People knew about the low iron ore price but the low debt was a positive surprise,” ING analyst Jaap Kuin said.
The FTSEurofirst 300 has gained 9.7 percent since the beginning of 2015 and the DAX is up 12 percent, both strongly outperforming a 1.4 percent rise on Wall Street’s S&P 500 . This has prompted a number of investors to turn cautious on Europe in the short term after such a strong start of the year.
“A lot of the European stocks in our portfolio have already hit the targets we’ve had for them. At this point, we’re buyers of puts as protection,” Kirill Pyshkin, fund manager at Mirabaud Asset Management, said.
“The market seems too optimistic about the prospect for a Greek deal. The government has been elected to dump austerity, and Greek people don’t care about the duration of the country’s bonds, they care about jobs and salaries, so the standoff can last more than the market thinks,” he said.
Europe bourses in 2015: link.reuters.com/pap87v
Asset performance in 2015: link.reuters.com/gap87v
Today’s European research round-up
additional reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek, in Brussels; Editing by Alison Williams