Banks, earnings help Europe shares close higher

European equities closed higher on Monday, with earnings updates helping to bolster investor sentiment.


Banks rise as rules ease

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 Index provisionally closed higher by 0.2 percent at 1,323.71 points, after finishing its first full week of 2014 trading on Friday with a moderate gain of 0.7 percent.

News that the U.S. economy created just 74,000 jobs in December, the lowest reading since January 2011, did little to damp the mood in European markets on Monday.

Instead, investors concentrated on individual stock news. Sports Direct, a U.K. sporting goods retailer, announced it had acquired a 4.6 percent stake in Debenhams, a U.K. department store, and said it wants to explore options "at an operational level". Shares of Debenhams closed higher by around 5.0 percent and Sport Direct shares closed lower by roughly 1.0 percent.

(Read More: Sports Direct buys 4.6% stake in Debenhams)

Egdon Resources and Dart Energy saw surges in their shares prices after French energy giant Total announced it was taking a stake in these firms in the hope of gaining exposure to shale gas production in the U.K.

(Read more: Total joins UK's pursuit of shale boom)

Sector-wise, banks were the biggest gainer on European bourses on Monday. This came after global banking regulators agreed to ease new rules on the amount of debt that banks are allowed to hold, amid fears that the rules could curb lending.

(Read more: Banks win big concessions on leverage rule)

Earnings due

In the U.S., attention this week will turn to a raft of major fourth quarter earnings from the likes of JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs,Intel and General Electric.

U.S. stocks churned on either side of neutral on Monday, with investors taking a cautious stance ahead of the quarterly earnings results.

Back in Europe, Italy's center-left leader, Matteo Renzi, said the next two weeks would be "decisive" for Prime Minister Enrico Letta's government, which has so far struggled to make incisive reforms. In an interview with newspaper Corriere della Sera on Sunday, Renzi said: "It amazes me that in Rome they don't understand the need to hurry."

Elsewhere, Spain's ruling conservative party has lost its lead to the socialists, according to an opinion poll published in El Pais newspaper on Sunday. The ruling party's popularity has declined in the wake of austerity measures, corruption scandals and a move to restrict abortion.

In other stocks news, shares of Suedzucker closed higher by around 11.3 percent after the sugar producer reported higher-than-expected results on Monday. Shares had seen selling pressure in recent months.

U.K. brewer Greene King released a trading statement showing a 5 percent rise in underlying sales; shares closed roughly 2.9 percent higher.

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