* FTSEurofirst 300 index up 0.8 pct, 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.
At 1452 GMT, the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 was up 0.8 percent at 1,420.62 points after rising to 1,428.22 at one point, a new seven-year high. The European basic resources index jumped 2.2 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,” Ronny Claeys, senior strategist at KBC Asset Management in Brussels, said. “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.
In addition, the market was 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. A number below that will disappoint markets and might trigger a sell-off in equities,” Christian Stocker, strategist at UniCredit in Munich, said.
He said the ECB’s government bond buying potentially would put further pressure on the euro, which in turn would especially help export-oriented European companies. Also a likely fall in bond yields would increase the attractiveness of other high- yielding assets like equities.
Among other markets, Greek stocks lost ground again, with Athens’s ATG falling 0.8 percent after two opinion polls showed anti-bailout opposition party Syriza was gaining momentum before Sunday’s election, moving further ahead of the conservatives that lead the coalition.
Danish stocks also underperformed, with the OMX Copenhagen 20 index up just 0.3 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.
However, Danish enzyme maker Novozymes rose 5.8 percent. Traders cited a new buyback programme as one of the catalysts, while Dutch firm Philips gained 2.7 percent on a report saying private equity groups had signalled interest in the group’s lighting division.
In London, Unilever fell 0.8 percent after posting lower-than-expected fourth-quarter underlying sales growth, while Europe’s largest software group, Germany’s SAP SE , was down 4.8 percent after cutting its 2017 operating profit outlook. (Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Susan Fenton)