* FTSEurofirst 300 closes 0.9 pct higher, hits new 7-yr high
* China data, German ZEW and QE hopes boost sentiment
* Greek shares fall as Syriza gains momentum
By Atul Prakash
LONDON, Jan 20 (Reuters) - European shares climbed to a new seven-year high on Tuesday after data showed China’s economic growth had slowed less than feared and expectations grew that the European Central Bank would launch a quantitative easing programme later this week.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 ended 0.9 percent higher at 1,422.79 points after touching 1,428.22, a new seven-year high. The European basic resources index jumped 2.3 percent, the top sectoral gainer, after the economic data from China, the world’s biggest metals consumer.
Figures showed China’s economy grew 7.4 percent in 2014, its slowest pace in 24 years and just missing the official 7.5 percent target. But the data was welcomed with relief by investors who had feared a sharper slowdown.
“A slowdown in China seems to be at a very moderate and controlled pace and that’s positive for the market,” said Ronny Claeys, senior strategist at KBC Asset Management in Brussels. “The German survey showing investors, who drive the market, are optimistic also helped European equities.”
A survey showed German analyst and investor sentiment jumped in January for the third straight month, helped by low oil prices and a weaker euro, boosting hopes for a rebound in Europe’s biggest economy.
The market was further aided by broad expectations that the ECB is set to unveil a programme to print money and buy bonds when it meets on Thursday in a bid to revive the euro zone economy and inflation.
“It’s highly likely that the ECB will announce plans to purchase government bonds worth at least 500 billion euros,” said Christian Stocker, strategist at UniCredit in Munich. “A number below that will disappoint markets and might trigger a sell-off in equities.”
Stocker said ECB bond-buying was likely to put further pressure on the euro, which in turn would help export-oriented European companies. A likely fall in bond yields would meanwhile make higher-yielding assets like equities more attractive.
Across Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.5 percent, France’s CAC was up 1.2 percent, Germany’s DAX rose 0.1 percent and Spain’s IBEX gained 1.2 percent.
Greek stocks lost ground again, with Athens’ ATG index falling 1.2 percent after two opinion polls showed anti-bailout opposition party Syriza moving further ahead of the ruling conservatives before Sunday’s election.
Danish stocks also underperformed, with the OMX Copenhagen 20 index up just 0.2 percent. Denmark’s central bank cut its certificate of deposit and lending rates by 0.15 percentage points on Monday to stop the crown strengthening after the Swiss franc’s cap to the euro was scrapped last week.
Danish enzyme maker Novozymes rose 5.8 percent, however, with traders citing a new buyback programme as one of the catalysts.
Dutch firm Philips gained 2.6 percent on a report saying private equity groups had signalled interest in the group’s lighting division.
Unilever fell 0.6 percent after posting lower-than-expected fourth-quarter underlying sales growth, while Europe’s largest software group, Germany’s SAP SE , was down 4.6 percent after cutting its 2017 operating profit outlook. (Editing by Catherine Evans)