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European shares edge higher on U.S. data, stay vulnerable

Atul Prakash
Thursday, 30 Jan 2014 | 11:20 AM ET

* FTSEurofirst 300 rises 0.2 percent

* Market recovers after U.S. growth data

* Healthcare companies up on corporate news

LONDON, Jan 30 (Reuters) - European shares recouped early losses and edged higher late on Thursday, with solid U.S. growth data and "oversold" levels prompting some buying, although the market remained vulnerable due to lingering emerging market concerns.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was up 0.2 percent at 1,292.75 points by 1600 GMT. The index had previously fallen to a session low of 1,281.16 before bouncing back to 1,298.46 following the release of U.S. gross domestic product data.

Figures showed the U.S. economy was on a solid ground in the fourth quarter as a result of robust household spending and strong exports, with the economy growing at an annual rate of 3.2 percent.

"Short-term 'oversold' levels, in combination with reasonably good growth numbers from the United States, have attracted some buyers back into the market," said Christian Stocker, equity strategist at UniCredit in Munich.

"But investors are very sceptical. They want to be optimistic, but the current developments in emerging markets have been stressful for them."

Charts showed that the 9-day relative strength index (RSI) for the FTSEurofirst 300 index was at 34 after slipping earlier this week below 30, a technically "oversold" market condition that often results in a bounce back.

A rebound in equity prices was supported by a rally in drugmakers, with the STOXX Europe 600 healthcare index rising 1.6 percent to the top of the sectoral gainers' list.

Danish healthcare products maker Coloplast climbed 7.4 percent after major investment banks such as JP Morgan, Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley raised their price targets for the stock, a day after the company raised its full-year revenue guidance.

But gains were eclipsed by a 1.2 percent decline in food and beverages shares, led lower by a 4.5 percent fall in Diageo after the world's biggest spirits company reported a worse-than-expected slowdown in sales growth in the last six months.

Analysts said the stock market was likely to remain volatile because of slowing Chinese growth, the withdrawal of U.S. monetary stimulus and a currency crisis in emerging markets.

"A correction following the crisis in emerging market currencies has given an opportunity for investors to rebalance their positions," said Lorne Baring, managing director, B Capital Wealth Management.

"But the market is still vulnerable to sentiment in emerging markets."

The Russian rouble hit record lows against the euro on Thursday and currencies in South Africa and Hungary hit multi-year troughs in the latest wave of an emerging market asset sell-off threatening global economic stability.

Alongside the emerging market worries, investor concern has focused on the current earnings season, and whether it will result in profits strong enough to justify lofty valuations after a bumper 2013.

Europe bourses in 2014:

Asset performance in 2014:

Today's European research round-up