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Europe: Tech stocks shine after Apple results as shares climb

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[LONDON] European shares rose on Wednesday, boosted by some strong earnings updates and a rising tech sector after results from Apple exceeded weak expectations.

Shares in AMS, which provides the facial recognition technology used in Apple's iPhones, jumped 7 per cent after Apple surprised the market with solid iPhone X sales, confounding fears of a much weaker performance.

Apple shares were up 4 per cent.

Other chipmakers STMicroelectronics, Infineon, BE Semiconductor and ASML also posted sharp gains after the tech giant's results helped sentiment on the sector.

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Europe's tech sector rose 1.2 per cent to a six-week high.

It helped the pan-European Stoxx 600 end up 0.7 per cent at its highest level since Feb 5, little affected by data showing that euro zone economic growth slowed as expected at the start of 2018.

A drop in the euro provided support, helping the exporter-heavy DAX index outperfrom with a rise of 1.5 per cent, while Italy's FTSE MIB rose 1.2 per cent to its highest level since October 2009, as government debt rose on dimming prospects of a snap election.

Mining stocks jumped 2.8 per cent, providing the bedrock for Europe's gains as copper prices recovered on strong China factory data.

Broadly strong earnings have been the main engine of the European index in recent weeks.

Thomson Reuters data showed that so far earnings growth for the euro zone MSCI EMU index was down 1.3 per cent for the first quarter, while MSCI Europe companies have reported 0.5 per cent earnings growth.

Earnings for the Europe-wide index have delivered a 1.2 per cent surprise thus far, meaning results have outperformed analysts' expectations. Deutsche Bank strategists said results beats were set to increase.

"The gross beat ratio, at 44 per cent, is low, but our gross beats model - based on moves in the euro, commodities and global macro surprises - suggests that this is set to pick up during the remainder of the season," wrote Deutsche Bank's equity strategy team.

"Tech, consumer staples and energy have seen the strongest earnings per share (EPS) growth for the companies that have reported so far," they added, saying financials and industrials have been the weakest.

On Wednesday British satellite firm Inmarsat led the pack, jumping 8.1 per cent after reporting stronger first-quarter revenue.

Shares in Swedish oil firm Lundin Petroleum rose 4.3 per cent after it became the latest European oil company to beat earnings expectations, helped by higher output.

Danish hearing aid company GN Store Nord gained 7 per cent after announcing a 1 billion Danish krone share buyback and beating profit expectations.

Among results disappointments, Paddy Power Betfair was among the worst-performing on the European index, down 4 per cent after first-quarter earnings fell. The bookmaker also announced a 500 million pound share buyback programme.

British online grocer Ocado pared rose 3.5 per cent after it signed a partnership deal with Swedish grocer ICA to develop its online business.

REUTERS