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European shares rise as Fed rate cut bets firm; focus on elections

Stock market operators work at the Euronext headquarters at La Defense business and financial district in Courbevoie near Paris

By Sruthi Shankar, Jesus Calero and Shristi Achar A

(Reuters) -European shares rose on Wednesday, as dovish comments from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell and fresh U.S. economic data firmed rate cut expectations, while investors awaited the second round of the French vote and national elections in the UK.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index closed 0.7% up, rising for a second session out of the last seven.

Wall Street gained on Wednesday after labour market and business activity data in the United States pointed to softening economic conditions, cementing hopes of a September rate cut. [.N]

The data follows Powell's remarks on Tuesday that recent data represented "significant progress" on inflation.

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Technology stocks added 1.6%, underpinned by Dutch semiconductor equipment makers ASML Holding and BE Semiconductor Industries, jumping 2% and 7.3%, respectively.

"At some point, there will be some correction (in the markets) to the downside. When this starts for semiconductors, other sectors should be there to give support and limit the S&P 500's losses," said Ipek Ozkardeskaya, market analyst at Swissquote.

Miners were the top sectoral gainers, advancing 2.2%, after copper prices climbed on a softer dollar amid renewed hopes of U.S. rate cuts and signs of firmer demand from top consumer China. [MET/L]

French stocks climbed 1.2% as opponents of France's National Rally (RN) stepped up their bid to block the far-right party from power, with more candidates agreeing to pull out of this weekend's run-off election to avoid splitting the anti-RN vote.

"The expectation that the left will band together in order to stem the tide of the far right has soothed nerves a bit," said Danni Hewson, Head of Financial Analysis at AJ Bell.

"But a hung Parliament in France would create a huge amount of instability."

The UK's FTSE 100 also gained 0.6% ahead of the July 4 vote, which could see a possible end to 14 years of Conservative government. [.L]

JD Sports dropped 3.9% to the bottom of the London's blue chip index, however, after Barclays cut the sports fashion retailer to "underweight" from "equal-weight", citing concerns about the company's heavy reliance on Nike.

Among other stocks, Danish shipping giant Maersk rose 3.7% after it agreed to sell its offshore marine service provider Maersk Supply Service to Norway's DOF Group for $1.11 billion.

Bpost tumbled 7.5% after the Belgian postal operator issued a downbeat full-year earnings forecast, citing unfavourable market conditions in North America.

(Reporting by Sruthi Shankar and Shristi Achar A in Bengaluru and Jesus Calero in Gdansk; Editing by Sohini Goswami and Sonia Cheema)