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Fed stimulus hopes send European equities to five-year high

Tricia Wright
Tuesday, 22 Oct 2013 | 10:56 AM ET

* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.7 percent

* Gjensidige beats forecast, announces special dividend

* Reckitt up; posts higher sales, reviewing pharma business

LONDON, Oct 22 (Reuters) - European equities rose to a fresh five-year high on Tuesday in a broad-based rally after a weak U.S. jobs report boosted expectations that the Federal Reserve would keep monetary policy ultra-loose for longer.

The FTSEurofirst 300 was up 0.7 percent at 1,289.97 points by 1444 GMT, trading at levels last seen in June 2008.

In data which pre-dated October's budget crisis, U.S. employers added 148,000 new positions in September against the 180,000 expected by economists polled by Reuters.

"It's out of date but it does send some important signals about the U.S. job market - if it was starting to deteriorate before the shutdown then the fact that we've had a disappointment makes it much less likely that the Fed will even contemplate tapering any time before the end of Q1 next year," CMC Markets senior market analyst Michael Hewson said.

Investors also cheered a number of positive earnings releases. Norwegian insurer Gjensidige jumped 8 percent after announcing third-quarter earnings that beat forecasts and a surprise special dividend, while Swedbank , Sweden's second largest bank by value, climbed 4 percent after operating profit beat forecasts.

UK consumer goods firm Reckitt Benckiser Group rose 5.6 percent after reporting higher revenues and saying it was reviewing options for its pharmaceuticals unit.

Of the 18 companies in the STOXX 600 that have so far reported third quarter earnings, 61 percent have beaten analyst expectations.

"I think there's a real drive to boost the shareholder returns through dividends; our view (on European equities) would be pretty optimistic," said Harry Morgan, head of private investment UK at Thomas Miller Investment, which has 2.6 billion pounds ($4.2 billion) of assets under management.

Morgan said Thomas Miller Investment would look to increase exposure to large consumer staples and pharmaceutical stocks.