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Earnings Relief Helps European Stocks

European shares ended a volatile session in positive territory on Wednesday as optimism over earnings outside the financial sector helped offset concern about more writedowns in the banking sector.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares ended up 0.6 percent at 1,312.47 points, having swung between losses of up to 0.9 percent and a gain of as much as 0.8 percent.

Optimism in the technology sector and bid talk in industrials helped push up shares in chip equipment maker ASML by 7 percent and in France's Alstom by more than 4 percent on talk that telecoms and construction group Bouygues may increase its stake in the group.

Bouygues said it wished to keep its holding in Alstom at the same level.

"The earnings season has come in a bit better so far and we have had a representative sample (of companies reporting)," said Philippe Gijsels, a European strategist for Fortis Bank, in Brussels.

"Banks remain weak and there are a lot of writedowns but outside financials, things are fairly good, especially in technology, where we've had some good figures," he said, adding the tough economic backdrop was revealing which companies were truly robust.