European stocks, euro higher before rate calls

European stock markets rose on Thursday, with Paris reaching its highest level this year, on growing economic optimism and as traders awaited monetary policy announcements from the ECB and Bank of England.

Dealers took their lead from Wall Street, which reacted positively overnight to official data indicating a strengthening US economy despite worries that it could tip back into recession next year.

Traders shrugged off a fresh credit rating downgrade for Greece and official data confirming that the eurozone's economy had contracted by 0.1 percent in the third quarter, sending the 17-nation currency bloc into recession.

"It's all about the central banks again today, with the Bank of England and European Central Bank both holding their monthly meetings," said Craig Erlam, market analyst at Alpari trading group.

Awaiting the outcomes, London's benchmark FTSE 100 index was up 0.34 percent at 5,912.23 points, Frankfurt's DAX 30 jumped 1.10 percent to 7,536.34 points and in Paris the CAC 40 won 0.58 percent to stand at 3,611.25.

"Sentiment is pretty good," said Gekko Global Markets trader Anita Paluch.

"Soothing noises from the US have helped to appease concerns on the fiscal cliff."

Eyes are on Washington, where Republicans and Democrats are locked in talks aimed at agreeing a deficit-cutting plan that would avert the fiscal cliff of huge tax hikes and spending cuts due to come into effect on January 1.

There was a broad agreement among analysts that should the $600-billion package comes in, the US economy would likely tip into recession.

In foreign exchange deals, the euro climbed to $1.3076 from $1.3064 late in New York on Wednesday.

Gold prices eased to $1,691.23 an ounce on the London Bullion Market, from $1,694 on Wednesday.

Shares in EADS meanwhile surged 6.87 percent to 29.10 euros after the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company, which owns the plane maker Airbus, unveiled a deal to restructure shareholdings.

The agreement, announced Wednesday, was aimed at reducing the role of France and Germany but preserve their strategic interests.

In Frankfurt, Daimler rose 1.26 percent to 38.68 euros after the German automaker halved its stake in EADS, as planned, and pocketed 1.66 billion euros ($2.2 billion) in proceeds.

The deal cuts in half Daimler's stake to 7.5 percent and the buyers included the German state-owned investment bank KfW, which purchased a stake of 2.76 percent and the Dedalus investor consortium, which acquired 1.9 percent.

But Rolls-Royce shed 2.79 percent to 888 pence after the aircraft engine maker warned it may be prosecuted over alleged "malpractice" in Indonesia and China after passing on information related to bribery concerns to Britain's fraud office.

Shares in GDF Suez plunged by over 14 percent after the French-based energy group announced a vast restructuring plan that aims to cut its debt by a third to 30 billion euros in the next two years.

They later recovered some ground to show a loss of 11.8 percent to 15.20 euros approaching midday.

burs-bcp/rfj/rl

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