* STOXX 600 up 0.4 pct
* More than 80 pct of European firms beat revenues so far
* HSBC jumps after solid Q1, banking sector leads
* Statoil, Shell earnings boost oil stocks
(Adds detail, updates prices)
By Kit Rees
LONDON, May 4 A flurry of well-received earnings
updates boosted European shares on Thursday, with positive
numbers from HSBC supporting financials while oil
stocks also rose.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index was up 0.4
percent, holding at 20-month highs, while Germany's benchmark
DAX index rose 0.8 percent to hit a fresh all-time
As the European earnings season nears the halfway mark, more
than 80 percent of firms which have reported first quarter
results so far have beaten analyst expectations for revenues,
showing that a recovery in demand is driving sales, according to
Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S data.
"The numbers (for Europe) are stronger than in the U.S.,
with the average earnings surprise standing at more than 10%,
while sales surprises are a strong 2.4%," analysts at Credit
Suisse said in a note.
European banks were top gainers, rising 1.3 percent
after lender HSBC jumped 3.6 percent. HSBC posted a
better-than-expected first-quarter profit and capital position.
"Overall we view this as a positive set of results," Gary
Greenwood, analyst at Shore Capital Markets, said in a note,
adding that the figures could potentially push up forecasts.
Likewise a decision by the U.S. Federal Reserve to keep
interest rates on hold also helped the sector, as banks benefit
from a higher interest rate environment.
Oil & gas stocks were also firmer, up 0.5 percent
following robust updates from Statoil and Royal Dutch
Shell, which both rose 1.6 percent.
"We have seen a sharp recovery in profits and strong cash
flow from Royal Dutch Shell this quarter," said Simon Gergel, UK
equities CIO at Allianz Global Investors.
"The company has generated sufficient cash to cover capital
expenditure and the full cost of dividends ... This provides
further reassurance about the benefits of the BG deal to the
group’s cash flow and the sustainability of the company’s
Results also boosted shares in brewer AB InBev and
Austrian engineer Andritz, which were among top STOXX
Swedish biometric firm Fingerprint Cards was the
biggest STOXX faller, however, dropping 5.4 percent after an
underwhelming first quarter report.
Fingerprint's operating profit slumped 88 percent, coming in
well below expectations, weighed down by excess inventories.
British retailer Next was also under pressure, down
4.5 percent after cutting the top end of its full-year profit
On a sectoral level, European mining firms saw some
weakness as copper, aluminium and gold prices sagged, weighing
on shares of aluminium producer Norsk Hydro, Centamin
and Anglo American.
(Reporting by Kit Rees, Editing by Helen Reid and Jon Boyle)