* Spain’s Ibex up 0.5 pct, FTSEurofirst flat
* BBVA results, services data fuel Spain recovery bets
* Broader earnings picture mixed as LVMH beats, SHB misses
By Francesco Canepa
LONDON, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Spanish stocks outperformed flat-to-lower European indexes on Wednesday as results from bank BBVA and service sector data underpinned recovery expectations for the indebted country.
Shares in BBVA rose 4.6 percent after Spain’s second-biggest bank posted better-than-expected revenues from lending in the fourth quarter and said it would now aim to grow more in its domestic market, where losses on loans are dropping.
BBVA echoed a positive update from larger peer Santander on Tuesday.
Further supporting sentiment on Spanish stocks, a poll showed on Wednesday Spain’s service sector grew at its fastest rate in five months and firms hired staff faster as the country consolidated its return to economic expansion.
Spain’s Ibex index index was up 0.5 percent at 0915 GMT, outperforming euro zone peers and the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index, which was flat at 1,478.90 points.
“They (Spain) have got momentum behind them and the recovery is broadening,” Markus Huber, a senior trader at Peregrine & Black, said. “On weakness, I’d be a buyer (of Spanish stocks).”
The broader earnings picture was more mixed.
Luxury group LVMH rose 5.7 percent and hit an all-time high after posting stronger-than-anticipated fourth-quarter sales. Finnish utility Fortum was up 7.7 percent after its profit beat forecasts.
However, Sweden’s Handelsbanken was down 4 percent after it reported fourth-quarter operating profit below expectations, due to increased loan losses and weaker-than-expected income on mortgages.
“Loan losses are the big disappointment and significantly worse than expected,” analysts at Societe Generale wrote in a note.
Today’s European research round-up (Editing by Mark Heinrich)