* FTSEurofirst 300 closes up 0.4 pct at 1,338.12 points
* Euro STOXX 50 ends up 0.2 pct at 3,182.79 points
* Auto stocks are best-performing equity sector
* Bernstein upgrades lift Porsche and Volkswagen
By Sudip Kar-Gupta
LONDON, April 9 (Reuters) - European shares rebounded on Wednesday, led by gains in automakers, although some traders said caution ahead of the European earnings season could curb near-term progress.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index closed up by 0.4 percent at 1,338.12 points, bouncing back after falling to its lowest level in more than a week in the previous session.
The euro zone’s blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index also advanced by 0.2 percent to 3,182.79 points.
The STOXX Europe 600 Automobile & Auto Parts Index was the best-performing equity sector in Europe, rising 1.5 percent as Volkswagen and Porsche both benefited from an upgrade by the brokerage Bernstein.
Bernstein raised its rating on Porsche and Volkswagen to “outperform” from “market perform”.
Andrea Williams, a European equities fund manager at Royal London Asset Management, also highlighted strong U.S auto sales figures at the start of April as boding well for the sector.
“The U.S. car numbers were very good and pricing is becoming less of a problem for the European carmakers,” said Williams.
Europe bourses in 2014: link.reuters.com/pap87v
Asset performance in 2014: link.reuters.com/gap87v
Today’s European research round-up
The FTSEurofirst 300 rose 16 percent in 2013 to post its best annual gain since 2009, and hit a peak of 1,355.29 points on April 4, which marked its highest level since May 2008.
The index has risen nearly 2 percent since the start of 2014, partly helped by signs of a European economic recovery and by expectations that the European Central Bank could introduce new measures to ensure the fledgling recovery does not falter.
Analysts said strong European corporate results were needed during the second quarter to give the region’s stock markets another push higher.
Alcoa kicked off the U.S. earnings season by reporting a fall in adjusted quarterly profits late on Tuesday as aluminum prices dropped, but its earnings nevertheless came in ahead of analysts’ expectations.
“We are cautiously optimistic about the first-quarter European reporting season and expect positive earnings growth in mid-single digit,” said Ronny Claeys, a senior strategist at KBC Asset Management in Brussels.
“We need some really positive news on earnings and economic growth to start the market going again. Until then, equities could struggle to move strongly higher.” (Additional reporting by Atul Prakash; Editing by Mark Heinrich)