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Europe: Shares power ahead as Q1 earnings season gathers pace

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[LONDON] A flurry of well-received earnings updates boosted European shares on Thursday, with a positive print from HSBC supporting financials while oil stocks also rose.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index was up 0.3 per cent, holding near 20-month highs, while Germany's benchmark DAX index rose 0.2 per cent to hit a fresh all-time high.

European banks were top gainers, rising 1.3 per cent after lender HSBC jumped 3.4 per cent. HSBC posted a better-than-expected first-quarter profit and capital position.

Likewise a decision by the U.S. Federal Reserve to keep interest rates on hold also helped the sector, as banks benefit from a higher interest rate environment.

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Oil & gas stocks were also firmer, up 1.1 per cent following robust updates from both Statoil and Royal Dutch Shell, which rose 3 per cent and 2.3 per cent respectively.

Results also boosted shares in brewer AB InBev and Austrian engineer Andritz, which were among top STOXX 600 gainers.

British retailer Next was the biggest faller, however, dropping more than 5 per cent after cutting the top end of its full-year profit guidance.

The first quarter earnings season has been strong for European firms so far, 43 per cent of which have reported figures. Of those firms, around 74 per cent have beaten earnings expectations, while 82 per cent have beaten on revenue according to Thomson Reuters data.