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* FTSEurofirst 300 index rises 0.7 percent
* Insurers gain on positive broker comments
* Portuguese banks BPI and Millennium BCP fall
By Atul Prakash
LONDON, March 29 (Reuters) - European equities advanced on Tuesday after a long weekend, with insurers leading the market higher after companies such as RSA Insurance and NN Group rose following some bullish broker comments.
The STOXX Europe 600 Insurance index was up 1.4 percent, the top sectoral gainer. RSA Insurance rose 2 percent after Deutsche Bank and Barclays increased their target prices for the stock, while Dutch insurer NN Group gained 2.2 percent after HSBC added it to its “Europe Super 10” list.
“We add NN Group because it offers an attractive capital return in what we expect to be an uncertain top-down environment where we expect sustainable higher yielding assets to be very much in demand,” HSBC analysts said in a note.
“We see it continuing to generate high and sustainable net cash flows to fund a compelling return ... to shareholders.”
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index was up 0.7 percent by 0805 GMT after falling 1.5 percent on Thursday. European markets were closed on Friday and Monday due to the Easter holiday.
However, the index is still down nearly 8 percent this year, with the FTSEurofirst struggling to come out of its recent narrow trading range.
“Trading in the next few days is likely to be influenced by repositioning ahead of the end of the first quarter, possibly giving stocks a temporary lift,” Markus Huber, trader at City of London Markets, said.
On the downside, shares in Portuguese banks BPI and Millennium BCP fell 6.4 percent and 8.9 percent respectively, weighed down by failure by Spain’s Caixabank and Angolan investor Isabel dos Santos to reach an agreement on their holdings in BPI.
The market showed little reaction to some encouraging macroeconomic indicators. Data from the European Central Bank showed that lending growth to euro zone companies and households rose at its fastest rate since late 2011 in February, suggesting the euro area recovery was continuing.
Investors were also awaiting Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s speech at 1620 GMT for fresh signals on the outlook for U.S. interest rate hikes, after a chorus of hawkish comments from other Fed officials.
Today’s European research round-up
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Mike Dolan, Markets Editor EMEA. (Editing by Tom Heneghan)