European Stocks Climb for Third Week as Earnings Top Estimates

Feb 21, 2014 7:00 pm ET

Feb. 22 (Bloomberg) -- European stocks rose for the third straight week, reaching their highest level in more than six years, as companies from Meda AB to Valeo SA reported earnings that exceeded analysts’ estimates.

Meda had the biggest weekly gain since December 2008 after reporting fourth-quarter net income and revenue that exceeded projections. Valeo gained 11 percent after France’s second- biggest auto-parts makers posted second-half earnings that topped estimates. Vodafone Group Plc rallied 8.3 percent as it completed the disposal of its stake in Verizon Wireless, the biggest sale of the past decade.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index rose 0.8 percent to 336.09 this week, completing its longest streak of weekly gains since Nov. 15. The gauge closed at the highest level since Jan. 14, 2008.

“The earnings season is in full swing,” said Christoph Riniker, head of strategy research at Julius Baer Group Ltd. in Zurich. “We expect earnings to grow in Europe, where we have seen lower figures for the last three years. The reason for this is an improving macroeconomic environment.”

The Stoxx 600 has gained 4.2 percent this month as the Bank of England said Britain is not ready for an increase in interest rates and comments by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen fueled optimism the U.S. economy can withstand reduced stimulus. The gauge slid 1.8 percent in January as investors weighed cuts to the Fed’s bond-buying program, China’s economic slowdown and volatility in emerging markets.

Fed Minutes

The Fed released the minutes of its Jan. 28-29 meeting this week. At the meeting, the last under former chairman Ben S. Bernanke, policy makers reduced the bank’s monthly asset purchases to $65 billion, citing the improved outlook for the labor market.

“Tapering has less influence,” Riniker said. “With the U.S. economy being well on track and investors having been guided towards tapering for some time now, it was not the question anymore of ‘if’, but ‘when’ and ‘how much’ tapering will happen.”

In the U.K., minutes of the BOE’s February policy meeting showed the Monetary Policy Committee didn’t hold a vote on the new phase of forward guidance Governor Mark Carney introduced this month. Under that program, the MPC will switch its focus from the unemployment rate to spare capacity and a range of other indicators.

In Ukraine, opposition leaders joined President Viktor Yanukovych in signing a peace accord to halt a three-month political crisis that claimed at least 77 lives this week. Yanukovych and opposition leaders agreed on early presidential elections, and lawmakers changed the constitution.

National Indexes

National benchmark indexes climbed in 14 of the 18 western- European markets. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 added 2.6 percent, while France’s CAC 40 climbed 0.9 percent. Germany’s DAX fell 0.1 percent.

Meda surged 15 percent after the maker of the Dymista allergy medicine reported fourth-quarter net income of 256 million Swedish kronor ($39.2 million), topping analysts’ projections of 205.6 million kronor. Sales of 3.45 billion kronor surpassed the estimate of 3.37 billion kronor.

Valeo gained 11 percent after saying earnings before interest, taxes and other expenses rose 16 percent to 411 million euros ($564 million) in the second half of 2013, exceeding the 375 million-euro average analysts had estimated. The maker of windshield wipers, headlights and ignition systems said it will build more factories and employ thousands more workers to meet increasing demand in China and North America.

Vodafone Climbs

Vodafone jumped 8.3 percent. Europe’s most valuable telecommunications company disposed of its 45 percent stake in Verizon Wireless, the biggest U.S. mobile-phone company. Vodafone will pay out $82.5 billion to shareholders.

Technip SA jumped 9.7 percent. Europe’s largest oil- services provider said its profit margin will increase next year. It forecast an operating-profit margin from subsea operations of at least 12 percent in 2014 and as much as 17 percent next year.

John Wood Group Plc rallied 11 percent after the oil and gas services company said it sees “good growth” this year after expanding in the U.S. shale industry through acquisitions. The Aberdeen, Scotland-based company also reported a 14 percent increase in 2013 pretax profit to $412.8 million.

Elekta AB plunged 8.8 percent after lowering its forecasts for sales and earnings before interest, taxes and amortization. Net sales will increase about 7 percent in the current year, compared with a previous forecast of at least 10 percent growth. Ebita will climb 3 percent, less than the 10 percent that the maker of radiation-surgery equipment had predicted.

Sulzer AG sank 9.8 percent. The pumpmaker posted 2013 sales of 3.96 billion Swiss francs ($4.46 billion), falling short of the 4.04 billion francs projected by analysts and below the 4.02 billion francs from a year ago.

BAE Systems Plc lost 4.8 percent. Europe’s largest defense company said earnings per share will decline 5 percent to 10 percent this year because of the pressure on the U.S. to contain its budget.

--Editors: Cecile Vannucci, Will Hadfield