* FTSEurofirst 300 index gains 1.2 percent
* China’s trade data helps market sentiment
* Aegon jumps after updates; mining stocks in demand (Updates prices)
By Atul Prakash
LONDON, Jan 13 (Reuters) - European shares advanced on Wednesday, led by Dutch insurer Aegon following an business update, with better-than-expected Chinese trade data also soothing investor sentiment.
Commodities-related stocks were in demand as metals and oil prices rose. The European mining and energy indexes gained 3 percent and 2.8 percent respectively, helped by rises in Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton, BP and Royal Dutch Shell of between 2 and 4 percent.
Aegon surged 11 percent, making it the biggest gainer in the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index, after the group provided an update on its strategy, gave financial targets and said it will increase its profitability and capital returns.
The FTSEurofirst 300 rose 1.2 percent to 1,365.99 points by 1108 GMT, extending Tuesday’s gains and following losses in the previous four sessions to a three-month low on concerns about the pace of economic growth in China.
Sentiment improved slightly after data showed China’s total trade fell far less than expected in December. Exports fell 1.4 percent from a year earlier, compared to a forecast 8 percent drop and a 6.8 percent decline in November.
China’s central bank held the line on the yuan for a fourth straight session, calming fears of a sustained depreciation. Having been alarmed by a near 5-percent slide in the currency since August, investors appeared relieved by the relative calm.
“Markets seem to be stabilising and moving higher as sentiment is turning. The yuan is no longer moving lower, but each and every piece of data from China will be looked at with much attention,” BNP Paribas Fortis Global Markets’ head of research, Philippe Gijsels, said.
“Going forward, the market will focus on the earnings season that is unfolding. European earnings momentum should be reasonably strong and be supportive for the market.”
Among standout gainers, Sodexo rose 1.5 percent after the food services and facilities management group posted organic revenue growth of 4.7 percent for the first quarter of 2015/16, while British recruitment firm Hays rose 2.2 percent after reporting an underlying 7-percent rise in quarterly net fees.
European companies’ earnings are expected to grow at their fastest rate for four years, significantly outpacing their U.S. peers as a weaker euro and signs of economic recovery swell profit margins. (Additional reporting by Danilo Masoni in Milan; Editing by Louise Ireland)