ADS and health stocks lift European shares

Tue Dec 4, 2012 2:53pm IST

* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.2 pct at 1,123.74 points

* Euro STOXX 50 up 0.4 pct to 2,592.86 points

* EADS rises on hopes of deal to change shareholding

* Roche and Sanofi add most points to FTSEurofirst

* Concerns remain over U.S. "fiscal cliff"

By Sudip Kar-Gupta

LONDON, Dec 4 (Reuters) - Gains in health stocks and in aerospace group EADS lifted European shares on Tuesday, although some traders said they would look to sell on the back of rallies due to lingering worries over the U.S. economy.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index was up by 0.2 percent at 1,123.74 points in early morning trade.

The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index advanced by 0.4 percent to 2,592.86 points.

French company EADS was among the top performers on the FTSEurofirst, rising 2.3 percent on hopes its main French and German government investors were close to an agreement to overhaul EADS' shareholder structure.

Trading volumes in EADS were above the average for the rest of Europe, with volumes coming in at 33.6 percent of their average 90-day level, compared to the Euro STOXX 50, where volumes were at 12 percent of their average 90-day amount.

"The shareholder restructuring between the French and German governments we feel is close, and the positive impacts should not be underestimated," Barclays analysts wrote in a note on EADS.

Gains in heavyweight healthcare stocks Sanofi and Roche also added the most points to the FTSEurofirst 300, with Roche benefiting from a target price upgrade to its shares from brokerage Kepler.

European equity markets have mainly traded sideways in the last month, due to worries over a lack of progress among U.S. politicians over reaching a deal to delay growth-curbing austerity measures.

However, many investors still prefer equities to bonds or cash, due to the better yields on offer in equities with interest rates near record lows crimping returns on sovereign bonds and cash.

The FTSEurofirst 300 was close to a year-high of 1,128.65 points reached earlier this week and had hit its highest closing level since July 2011 on Nov. 29 when it ended at 1,121.83.

McLaren Securities managing director Terry Torrison said European equities remained underpinned by pledges of fresh action by the European Central Bank (ECB) to protect the euro currency from the euro zone's sovereign debt crisis.

"Ultimately, people think Europe's OK and that equities is the place to be. If you're going to put your money anywhere, it makes sense to put in equities," he said.

Others were more cautious due to the worries over the U.S. "fiscal cliff" - a combination of U.S. government spending cuts and tax rises due to be implemented under existing law in early 2013 that may cut the federal budget deficit but also tip the economy back into recession.

"Sentiment has just turned a bit negative recently," said Berkeley Futures associate director Richard Griffiths.

Griffiths said some clients were looking to sell European equity markets at the top of their recent trading ranges, at around the 2,625 point level for the Euro STOXX 50 index and around 7,500 points for Germany's DAX index. (Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta/editing by Chris Pizzey, London MPG Desk, +44 (0)207 542-4441; Additional reporting by Dominique Vidalon)

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