* FTSEurofirst 300 index touches 3-month high
* Sodexo rallies after solid update and buyback
* Greek bank stocks slide on capital raising plans
By Danilo Masoni
MILAN, Nov 19 (Reuters) - European shares touched three-month highs on Thursday, helped by food and facilities group Sodexo rallying after a solid update and a share buyback announcement.
The market was also buoyed by indications from the U.S. Federal Reserve late on Wednesday that the U.S. economy was strong enough to cope with an interest rate hike, which many expect it to decide on in December.
Expectations of more monetary support from the European Central Bank (ECB) next month also propped up stock markets.
“Sentiment is positive thanks to signs of solid economic growth, with the U.S. economy nearing full employment,” said Alessandro Allegri, Ambrosetti Asset Management CEO.
“In Europe and Japan, central banks are carrying on with easy monetary policy to support growth and this plays in favour of stock markets.”
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index initially rose 1 percent to its highest level since late August before easing back to close 0.4 percent higher. The euro zone’s blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index also rose 0.5 percent.
Sodexo jumped 9.9 percent, its biggest one-day gain since July 2004, after saying it would cut costs further to cope with a volatile global economy. It also forecast higher revenues and operating profit for its 2015-16 financial year.
Analysts said the results were stronger than expected, while a 300 million euro share buyback also pleased investors.
Mining stocks gained ground, with BHP Billiton rising after saying its priority was to maintain a healthy balance sheet.
The mining sector was further helped as the U.S. dollar backed off highs. A cheaper dollar makes dollar-priced metals more affordable for non-U.S. investors.
Thyssenkrupp rose 2.6 percent, reversing initial losses after mixed results and a cautious outlook for the year. Brokers said that while the dividend was less than expected, quarterly adjusted operating profits had beaten expectations.
The impact of last week’s attacks in Paris looked to be easing as travel and leisure stocks rose 1.4 percent after falling on Wednesday.
However, Greek stocks fell, with shares in the country’s leading banks slumping as they unveiled discount share offerings aimed at raising funds to plug a capital shortfall.
Ambrosetti’s Allegri expected gains for European shares in coming weeks but said some profit-taking could kick in towards the end of the year.
He said undervalued energy stocks might be worth buying although risks remained due to low oil prices.
Today’s European research round-up at RCH/EUROPE (Additional reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Andrew Roche)