Europe stocks rally after Yellen comments; FTSE hits record

martes 24 de febrero de 2015 13:59 GYT
 

(Updates with Greek aid extension, closing prices)
    * FTSEurofirst 300 ends up 0.5 pct, touches fresh 7-year
high
    * FTSE 100 hits record high above 1999 peak
    * Greek bank shares surge as bailout extended
    * Europe enjoys best earnings season in nearly four years

    By Blaise Robinson
    PARIS, Feb 24 (Reuters) - European stocks rallied on
Tuesday, with Britain's FTSE 100 and Germany's DAX
 hitting record highs, after U.S. Federal Reserve Chair
Janet Yellen said it was likely to be several months before the
Fed raises interest rates.
    Greek stocks were the top gainers after Athens delivered a
list of economic reforms to the euro zone that helped it secure
a four-month extension of its financial rescue. 
    Shares in National Bank of Greece, Alpha Bank
, Bank of Piraeus and Eurobank 
surged 16-20 percent. Despite its recent rebound, the Greek
banking sector remains below the level it traded at before last
month's election victory by the anti-austerity Syriza party.
    The sector is still down 50 percent from February 2014,
reducing the combined market value of Greece's top four banks to
18.5 billion euros ($20.9 billion), about a fifth of the value
of Spain's Banco Santander, the euro zone's biggest
bank.
    The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares
ended 0.5 percent higher at 1,543.29 points, a level not seen
since late 2007.
    Britain's FTSE 100 ended 0.5 percent higher after
hitting a record high of 6,958.89, surpassing its previous
all-time high reached in late 1999. 
    In a subtle shift of emphasis that helps lay the groundwork
for the Fed's first rate hike since 2006, Yellen said its
policy-setting committee was considering interest rate hikes "on
a meeting by meeting basis". She added that an increase was not
likely for at least the next couple of meetings. 
    "It was a reassuring message from Yellen. The Fed will take
its time before starting to raise rates, given the low
inflation. So no change before the summer," Saxo Bank trader
Pierre Martin said.
    "Investors are loving it: the U.S. economy is in good shape,
very low unemployment, and rock-bottom interest rates. These are
pretty powerful catalysts for the market."
    Among the top gainers on Tuesday in Europe, Dutch tech ASML
 rose 3.6 percent after saying it had passed a key
performance milestone. Mining giant BHP Billiton surged
6.2 percent, driving a sector rally, after a
smaller-than-expected drop in half-year profit. 
    Overall, fourth-quarter earnings are expected to grow by
19.5 percent, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S, which would
be Europe's best earnings season since mid-2011 after three
years of stagnating earnings. 
    European profits overall are still 30 percent below their
peak of 2008, however, while U.S. corporate profits have
rebounded to 30 percent above their 2008 peak, Thomson Reuters
Datastream data shows.
    "This gap is the biggest we've ever seen by a huge margin.
Now it's going to start closing," said Jonathan Bell, chief
investment officer at Stanhope Capital, which oversees $9
billion in assets.
    "There's scope for a reasonable rebound in European
earnings, which is one of the reasons why we're 'overweight'
Europe equities."

    Europe bourses in 2015: link.reuters.com/pap87v
    Asset performance in 2015: link.reuters.com/gap87v
    Today's European research round-up 
    

 (Editing by Catherine Evans)