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Europe: Financials, miners lift stocks


[LONDON] European stocks closed higher on Monday, underpinned by financials and basic resources, as mergers and acquisitions rumbled on with some broker notes also prompting individual stock moves.

The pan-European STOXX 600 was up 0.4 per cent at its close, rising in concert with euro zone stocks and blue-chips. Strong gains in banks led by Bank of Ireland boosted the benchmarks, while basic resources reversed course to trade higher as metals prices firmed.

Outside the main blue chips, UK midcap construction support services company Carillion grabbed traders' attention after a profit warning and CEO exit sent its shares tumbling nearly 40 per cent in heavy volumes.

Carillion shares are among the most heavily shorted across the UK market with hedge funds including Marshall Wace and Naya Capital reporting sizeable bearish bets according to FCA disclosure data.

The worst-performing European stock was infrastructure company Balfour Beatty, down more than 3 per cent as traders read across from Carillion.

Shipping company Moeller-Maersk jumped 4 per cent to a 14-month high and was among top STOXX gainers after Goldman Sachs raised its forecast for it and peer Hapag , on an analysis of shipping rates.

The broker however estimated a recent cyber-attack could take a US$150-200 million chunk out of Maersk's revenue in the third quarter, leaving its overall profit forecast for the firm unchanged at US$1.5 billion.

PostNL was the biggest riser, up more than 4 per cent after the outgoing Dutch economy minister Henk Kamp suggested that regulatory changes were needed in Dutch postal services.

CHR Hansen gained 1.5 per cent after a raise to "buy" from Goldman Sachs, which said the company had strong pricing power.

The broker found input costs for European consumer staples increased 13 per cent year-to-date versus 2016, suggesting 2017 would be the first year of input cost inflation since 2011, helping drive firmer pricing.

"As input costs rise, we prefer companies with pricing power (from high gross margins or concentrated market structure) and/or self-help opportunities," analysts at Goldman said.

Food and beverage companies were one of the best-performing sectors, up nearly 1 per cent.

German utility E.ON rose 2.2 per cent, a top-performer in the buoyant utilities sector after HSBC said recent weakness offered an "excellent buying opportunity", raising the stock to a 'buy' from 'reduce'.

Analysts at UBS said that although relative outperformance of European versus US equities has slowed recently, they saw the region regaining momentum as monetary policy began to tighten.

"Europe craves higher rates and US bond yields," they wrote, pointing to the region's higher weighting in materials, industrials, financials and energy, against US equities'concentration in technology and consumer discretionary sectors more suited to lower rates.