Stronger automakers boost European shares to end near highs
* FTSEurofirst 300 index finishes 0.8 pct higher
* Weaker euro against dollar boosts automakers
* ITV, Standard Chartered shares advance
By Atul Prakash
LONDON, March 4 (Reuters) - European shares rallied in late trading on Wednesday and closed just below multi-year highs, with export-oriented stocks getting a boost following a sharp decline in the euro to an 11-1/2-year low against the dollar after U.S. services data.
The dollar rose after the Institute for Supply Management said its services index rose to 56.9 in February against 56.5 predicted in a Reuters poll. The U.S. currency also strengthened against the euro ahead of the launch of quantitative easing by the European Central Bank.
"European markets received an additional boost from an encouraging U.S. services PMI report. Generally a good economic number out of the U.S. is good for the dollar and the resultant euro weakness is helping to boost the shares of European car makers, which are particularly sensitive to currency moves," Robert Parkes, director of equity strategy at HSBC Bank, said.
The STOXX Europe 600 Auto and Auto Parts index rose 1.8 percent, the top sectoral gainer, helping the broader STOXX 600 index to advance 0.8 percent.
The STOXX 600 has risen 14 percent so far in 2015, its strongest start to the year since the index was created in late 1986 and the best performance among all asset classes. Continuación...