* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.4 pct, resumes rally
* Greek shares rise as Athens to repay IMF loan installment
By Blaise Robinson
PARIS, April 9 (Reuters) - European shares rose early on Thursday, helped by positive German data as well as figures showing a strong recovery in Europe’s auto sector.
Greek shares climbed, with Athens’s benchmark Athex General Composite Share Index (ATG) up 0.9 percent after the country confirmed it will pay a 450 million euro ($485 million) loan installment to the International Monetary Fund on Thursday.
Robust German data also lifted the mood, with seasonally-adjusted exports rising 1.5 percent on the month after dipping by 2.1 percent in January.
At 0817 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was up 0.4 percent at 1,617.32 points.
“The news on Greece is helping push European markets higher, although it doesn’t mean at all that a long-term solution has been reached,” said Alexandre Baradez, chief market analyst at IG France.
“I‘m quite cautious at this point. The market is losing steam, a lot of good news have already been priced in and there are quite a few potential negative catalysts on the horizon, including the Fed’s first rate hike and the UK and Spanish elections. We could soon get a 5 to 10 percent correction.”
Renault gained 1.9 percent while both BMW and Michelin were up 1.2 percent.
According to industry figures published late on Wednesday, the auto sector’s recovery broadened to France and Spain, Italy and Portugal recorded double-digit sales growth again as they recover from a steep collapse in demand following the 2008 financial crisis.
The STOXX auto sector index -- which is up 31 percent since the start of the year, the best performance among European sectors in 2015 -- was up 0.8 percent on Thursday.
Shares in Vivendi also featured among the top gainers, up 3 percent. The French media group said it reached a deal with activist U.S. hedge fund P. Schoenfeld Asset Management (PSAM) to increase payouts to investors, heading off a conflict ahead of its shareholder meeting later this month.
Shares in luxury goods maker Burberry added 4.2 percent, with traders citing speculation of consolidation in the sector. Burberry had no immediate comment on the speculation.
Europe bourses in 2015: link.reuters.com/pap87v
Asset performance in 2015: link.reuters.com/gap87v
Today’s European research round-up
Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky