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Shares gain on earnings optimism

Jul 19 2012 09:51 Reuters

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London - European shares rose to 11-week highs on Thursday as strong US corporate profits lifted sentiment, while signs of stress in the European debt market kept the single currency trading just above a two-year low.

Pressure also remains on the dollar after Federal Reserve chairperson Ben Bernanke kept alive talk of more monetary easing in his latest remarks to the US Congress, though he played down the risks of a double-dip recession.

"There have been some good company results, which have lifted sentiment.

"But I don't think investors have been complacent as the eurozone situation is still in the background," said Keith Bowman, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was up 0.3% at 1 056.80 points and on track for a seventh straight week of gains.

The euro traded around $1.2308, up about 0.2%, above a two-year low of $1.2162 hit last week.

Debt auctions later in the day by Spain and France promise to highlight the growing tensions within the euro area, with French yields set to touch record lows, while Spain's longer term borrowing costs hover near unsustainably high rates.

Spain should receive some good news later when the German parliament votes on the rescue programme for its troubled banks, which should pave the way for a formal approval by euro area finance ministers on Friday.

The deadly bombing in Syria and an attack on Israeli tourists in Bulgaria, which have plunged the Middle East deeper into crisis, lifted Brent crude oil to a seven-week high above $106 a barrel.

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