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Europe: Shares end off highs as oil turns back to US$30


[LONDON] European stocks rose on Tuesday, helped by solid updates from retailers and companies in other sectors but ended off earlier highs as volatile oil prices turned sharply lower.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index .FTEU3 closed up 1 per cent at 1,349.16 points to snap four sessions of declines, but below an intra-day high of 1,362.16 points.

Crude oil steadied at around US$32 per barrel earlier in the session but in the last two hours of trading it fell back to the US$30 area, a near 12-year low, dragging indexes off highs and pushing energy stocks into the red.

The deepening slide of crude oil and volatile Chinese stock markets have contributed to a rocky start to 2016 for global stocks. The FTSEurofirst 300 has lost more than 6 per cent since the beginning of the year.

Nonetheless, the market found support from solid company updates from the retail sector and analysts expect European companies to post a stong earnings season. "(Euro zone companies) benefit from positive tailwinds, example an accelerating growth environment and weaker currency,"analysts at Credit Suisse said.

Shares in Metro rose 3.6 per cent after the retailer said it had a "very good Christmas business" in Germany, with like-for-like sales up 2.1 per cent.

British retailers Tesco, Sainsbury and Marks & Spencer advanced 6.7 to 1 per cent, Debenhams gained 10 per cent and Morrisons rose 8.7 per cent after trading updates and industry sales figures.

Morrisons, Britain's fourth-largest supermarket group, beat expectations for Christmas trading, reporting sales during the holidays rose for the first since 2012. "At least on a temporary basis, Morrisons seems to have shaken off some of its relegation form and the share price has reacted accordingly," said Richard Hunter, head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown.

Britain's second-largest department store chain, Debenhams, also posted higher-than-expected sales in the last 19 weeks, driven by strong Christmas trading and growing online shopping .

Solid updates also lifted shares in Europe's largest software maker SAP and German food-processing technology group GEA. The two stocks ended up by 3.7 per cent and 7.6 per cent.

Utilities also underpeformed to fall 0.3 per cent.

France's EDF fell 4.4 per cent to a record low after Exane and Deutsche Bank cut price targets and brokerage Bryan Garnier flagged concerns over future cash flows after a report by French agency Andra about the costs of managing radioactive waste.