* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.3 pct, reverses early losses
* Lufthansa, Airbus down after plane crash
* Poor Chinese data weighs on resource-related shares
By Atul Prakash
LONDON, March 24 (Reuters) - European shares edged up on Tuesday to hover just below a recent 7-1/2-year high, with forecast-beating business surveys from Germany and France offsetting disappointing Chinese factory data.
However, Lufthansa and Airbus were down 1.9 percent and 0.9 percent respectively after an Airbus operated by Lufthansa’s Germanwings budget airline crashed in France with all 148 on board feared dead. The European travel and leisure index fell 0.4 percent.
Equities recovered from early falls as purchasing managers’ surveys (PMIs) showed Germany’s private sector grew in March at its strongest rate since July and France’s private sector expanded for the second straight month, chiming with recent figures suggesting that economy is edging back to growth.
“Today’s data further shows that Europe is on the road to recovery and we are heading in the right direction. This is also supportive of our view that European earnings are going to deliver an upside surprise in 2015,” HSBC Global Research equity strategist Robert Parkes said.
“Companies are not cheap any more, but valuations are not yet stretched and we see more upside potential for European equities in the coming months,” he added.
At 1432 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was up 0.3 percent at 1,606.12 points after falling to 1,592.51 earlier on the back of poor Chinese factory sector data. The index hit its highest since mid-2007 on Friday.
Resource-related shares fell, with the European sector index down 0.8 percent. Rio Tinto and Anglo American slid 1.4 percent and 1.0 percent respectively after data showed activity in China’s factory sector dipped to an 11-month low in March.
European stocks have rallied since the start of the year, with Germany’s DAX up 21 percent and on track to record its best quarter since late 2003, as global investors bet that a weaker euro would boost the region’s economy and corporate earnings.
“The environment for the euro zone is getting extremely positive: low interest rates, a weakening euro and falling commodity prices, coupled with strong action from the ECB,” said Christian Jimenez, fund manager and president of Diamant Bleu Gestion, in Paris.
“The only big risk seen in the medium term is the prospect of a rate hike by the Fed, but that’s mostly priced in already.”
Across Europe, Greek stocks rose 3.6 percent after Athens said it would present urgently needed reforms to its euro zone partners by Monday. A source familiar with the matter told Reuters that Greece will run out of money by April 20 unless it gets fresh aid from creditors.
Among other sharp movers, plumbing supplies group Wolseley , which hit an eight-year high on Friday, fell 3.8 percent after posting a smaller-than-expected increase in first-half earnings. (Additional reporting by Blaise Robinson in Paris; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Susan Fenton)