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Europe: Shares rise as Italian stocks recover, Ocado soars

[LONDON] European stocks pushed higher in early trading on Thursday as Italian stocks recovered some lost ground and commodities-related sectors rallied, while shares in Ocado rocketed after the company signed a partnership deal.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 was up 0.1 per cent by 0724 GMT, holding at 3-1/2 month highs as shares in energy stocks and miners rose, while Italy's benchmark climbed more than 1 per cent as markets awaited the result of talks between two anti-system parties to form a coalition government.

On Wednesday, Italian stocks had tumbled more than 2 per cent after a leaked draft coalition programme indicated that the parties planned to ask the European Central Bank to forgive 250 billion euros (S$396.17 billion) of Italian debt.

Britain's FTSE 100 also pushed higher, shrugging off a rise in sterling following a report late on Wednesday that Britain will tell Brussels it is prepared to stay in the European Union's customs union beyond 2021. A source at Prime Minister May's office dismissed the report on Thursday.

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While indexes were relatively subdued, there were some big movers among individual stocks. Shares in online supermarket Ocado surged nearly 40 per cent to an all-time high after the company signed a deal with US retailer Kroger Co to use Ocado's technology for grocery deliveries in the world's biggest market.

Earnings updates also spurred sizeable moves. Altice jumped more than 10 per cent after its French unit showed the first signs of recovery in the first quarter, while French waste and water group Suez rose 3.4 per cent after higher waste volumes boosted its first-quarter core earnings.

Shares in Maersk, broadcaster RTL and Royal Mail all fell between 3.9 and 9.5 per cent after giving updates.

Shares in British bookmakers also came under pressure after the UK government cut the top stake on fixed-odds betting terminals to two pounds. William Hill, GVC and Paddy Power Betfair fell between 0.7 and 3.1 per cent.