Sanofi and Unilever Nudge European Shares Higher


Reassuring updates from drugmaker Sanofi and consumer goods group Unilever lifted European shares on Thursday, although some traders felt worries over the euro zone would limit further moves higher.

The FTSEurofirst Index provisionally closed up 0.2 percent at 1,095.85 points. However, the euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index fell 0.3 percent to 2,483.01 points as financial stocks declined.

In a busy day for corporate earnings, thetravel and leisure ector saw the biggest gains.

Sanofi rose 1.6 percent, adding the most points to the FTSEurofirst 300 index, after the French company forecast that 2012 earnings would fall less than expected.

KBL Switzerland chief investment officer Philippe Carette backed "defensive" equity sectors such as healthcare, seen as resilient in an economic downturn, due to the underlying worries over the euro zone and Spain's debt crisis.

"Overall, I suspect we may be due for some correction. I don't see a clear picture on how to address the Spanish problem. The amount of bad loans in the Spanish banking system is huge," he said.

Away from earnings news, Spanish newspaper Espacion reported on Thursday that the Spanish government will formally ask the European Union (EU) for a bailout package of up to 60 billion euros ($77.8 billion) to recapitalize its banking sector, lower than the 100 billion euros offered.

In Germany, daily business newspaper Handelsblatt reported that the euro zone will grant fiscally troubled Greece fresh aid of between 16 and 20 billion euros.

In the U.K., third quarter GDP figures were released showing an increase of 1 percent from the previous quarter. This was the biggest quarterly gain since the third quarter of 2007. Sterling rose sharply against the dollar after the data was released.