(Updates prices at settle)
* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.8 pct, hits high since Nov 07
* ECB says QE may last beyond 2016, raises forecasts
* European earnings up 22 pct, best season since mid-2011
By Francesco Canepa and Blaise Robinson
LONDON/PARIS, March 5 (Reuters) - European shares reached their highest in more than seven years on Thursday, boosted by encouraging comments from the European Central Bank and by strong results from supermarket Carrefour and fund manager Schroders.
ECB President Mario Draghi said the bank’s bond-buying programme, due to start on Monday, may last beyond September 2016 if necessary and dismissed concerns it might struggle to find sellers for the bonds. It also increased its economic growth forecasts for this year and next.
“He showed his determination to stick with the programme and dismissed ... the problem” of finding sellers, said Joost Van Leenders, chief economist of multi-asset solutions at BNP Paribas Investment Partners. “Overall, that’s positive for equities.”
The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was up 0.8 percent at 1,569.48 points. It reached its highest level since November 2007 at 1,572.02 points as Draghi was speaking.
European stocks have rallied since the start of the year, boosted by the prospect of the ECB’s quantitative easing. The FTSEurofirst 300 index is up 14 percent in 2015, outpacing Wall Street, where the S&P 500 has risen roughly 2 percent.
Shares in Carrefour rose 2.4 percent after the world’s second-largest retailer said it would increase capital expenditure this year as it seeks to bolster a revival of its European hypermarkets.
British fund manager Schroders was up 4.7 percent. It reported a better-than-expected jump in its 2014 pretax profit as net inflows more than tripled to 24.8 billion pounds.
About 80 percent of STOXX Europe 600 companies have reported results so far, and their profits rose an average 22 percent from a year ago, according to Thomson Reuters Starmine data. That made it Europe’s best earnings season since mid-2011.
“Corporate results are encouraging,” said Joffrey Ouafqa, fund manager at Paris-based Auris Gestion Privee. “Companies have done a great job in terms of restructuring, and now they have a strong operating leverage. A small rise in revenue is enough to send profits soaring.”
Mining companies bucked the trend. Rio Tinto fell 2.9 percent after China announced an economic growth target for 2015 of around 7 percent -- its lowest in a quarter of a century -- and said it would boost government spending. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang called the slower growth the “new normal” for the world’s second-larget economy.
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 Alexandre Boksenbaum-Granier; Editing by Larry King)