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* Barclays rises on Exane upgrade, boosts banking sector
* PostNL surges after its Q2 results
* Airbus shares fall on UK corruption probe
By Sudip Kar-Gupta
LONDON, Aug 8 (Reuters) - European stock markets rose on Monday, propped up by gains in the shares of major banks.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 0.3 percent, with traders also saying stocks were being supported by a rally on U.S. markets, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq hitting record highs after strong jobs data on Friday.
The STOXX Europe 600 Bank index advanced 1 percent, helped by a 2.8 percent rise at Barclays after Exane BNP Paribas upgraded Barclays to “outperform” from “neutral”.
Shares in Dutch postal service operator PostNL surged 12 percent, the top performer on the STOXX 600 index, after the company confirming its full-year outlook, while analysts also welcomed a surprise improvement in its equity position.
Airbus shares fell 1.7 percent after Britain’s Serious Fraud Office launched a formal investigation into suspected fraud, bribery and corruption in connection with its commercial plane sales.
According to data from Thomson Reuters StarMine, 61 percent of companies on the STOXX 600 index have beaten or met forecasts with their second quarter results so far, although those earnings are down 15 percent from last year on average.
“There’s plenty of confidence over in the States, and that’s been helping Europe, but I’d still be on the defensive side concerning European markets and I’d be looking to sell rallies,” said Berkeley Futures’ associate director Richard Griffiths.
“There’s still much macroeconomic uncertainty in Europe.”
While the STOXX 600 has recovered much of the ground lost in the immediate aftermath of Britain’s vote in June to quit the European Union, the index remains down by 6 percent so far in 2016.
Andreas Clenow, chief investment officer at ACIES Asset Management in Zurich, echoed Griffiths’ view of preferring U.S. to European shares at present.
“The U.S. markets look pretty healthy. We keeping making record highs in the U.S, but the European stock markets look much more sluggish,” said Clenow.
Additional reporting by Wout Vergauwen; editing by John Stonestreet