France's CAC hits 5-1/2-year high, European shares up
* FTSEurofirst 300 rises 0.2 percent
* Vodafone rises 2.8 pct, top gainer
* AXA slips after disappointing results
By Atul Prakash
LONDON, Feb 21 (Reuters) - European shares climbed higher on Friday, with France's CAC 40 hitting a 5-1/2-year peak, as investors took their lead from stronger equities on Wall Street and in Asia following robust U.S. factory data.
At 0901 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was up 0.2 percent at 1,341.29 points after gaining as much as 1,345.26. the highest since late January. France's CAC was up 0.1 percent after hitting a level not seen since 2008.
Wall Street's S&P 500 gained 0.6 percent on Thursday and Japan's Nikkei gained almost 3 percent on Friday, lifted by data showing U.S. factory activity accelerated at its fastest pace in nearly four years in February, a bullish indicator after some disappointing data.
"It is a positive sign that the U.S. economy is improving," David Battersby, investment manager at Redmayne-Bentley, said. "And if the economy is improving, then they will be sucking in imports. Things are getting back on track."
"Look at the companies that are international brands and have strong emerging market exposure because that's where, after the recent fallout, we have value," he said, adding that companies such as GlaxoSmithKline, Unilever and Diageo were quite attractive. Continuación...