Results, German growth lift European shares ahead of U.S. inflation data

LONDON, Feb 14 (Reuters) - European shares rose in early trading on Wednesday ahead of the release of crucial U.S. inflation data which could soothe, or inflame, fears of faster rate hikes which triggered a sharp correction in equity markets.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index was up 0.6 percent by 0825 GMT with most bourses and sectors in positive territory as a strong set of corporate results and robust economic growth in Germany lifted shares while traders awaited the U.S. numbers.

"Even a slightly higher number could set the cat among the pigeons given the late cycle stimulus the Trump Administration is pumping into the U.S. economy," Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at CFD and FX provider AxiTrader, said.

Shares in food packaging group Huhtamaki led the pan-European index's gainers, rising 9 percent after it released fourth quarter results.

In the banking sector, Credit Suisse was a clear leader, up 2.7 percent, after it posted a third straight annual loss which was smaller than expected.

French investment bank Natixis followed closely, gaining 2.1 percent after reporting an unexpected rise in quarterly net profit.

Its Gallic peer Credit Agricole, on the other hand, was down 1.9 percent after releasing its results.

Other French stocks were among the top performers with French retirement home operator Orpea up 6 percent and heading for its best day in more than 18 months after reporting a solid outlook. (Reporting by Julien Ponthus, Additional reporting by Wayne Cole, Editing by Kit Rees)