* STOXX 600 up 0.2 pct
* French equities rally, banks lead
* Man Group rises after results
* Pandora gains after maintaining outlook
(Recasts, adds quote and detail, updates prices at close)
By Helen Reid and Kit Rees
LONDON, April 20 European shares edged higher on
Thursday as investors welcomed results from Man Group
and Pandora maintained its outlook, while French
equities outperformed ahead of the first round of France's
The pan-European STOXX 600 index ended the session
0.2 percent higher.
France's CAC 40 outperformed peers, jumping 1.5
percent and marking its best day since the beginning of March.
Banking stocks, which are regarded as bellwethers for the
economy, led the CAC 40 higher, with BNP Paribas and
Societe Generale up 4 and 2.8 percent respectively.
Some analysts suggested that investors were closing out short
positions ahead of the vote.
"Few days ahead of the French elections, almost anything is
possible based on the polls. The worst outcome for markets is if
Le Pen and Melenchon are in the 2nd round, in our view, as
markets could start pricing Frexit risks," strategists at Bank
of America Merrill Lynch said in a note, referring to far-right
candidate Marine Le Pen and the far-left's Jean-Luc Melenchon.
More broadly, European banks also rose, up 0.8 percent. UBS
on Wednesday upgraded the sector to 'neutral' from
'underweight', citing rising reflation expectations and a
seemingly more benign regulatory environment.
Even the struggling UK FTSE 100 managed to post a
0.1 percent gain, despite coming under pressure this week after
British Prime Minister Theresa May called a snap general
election, a move that sent sterling to a more than 6-month high.
"The inverse correlation of FTSE with sterling is logical
because of the overseas earnings of the FTSE, so if sterling
continues to move, that will have a significant effect on that
trade-off between large, international companies and more
domestic companies," said Simon Gergel, CIO for UK Equities at
Allianz Global Investors.
Earnings-related newsflow drove the top gainers, with
Pandora up 5 percent, regaining ground after a
broker downgrade hit it earlier in the week. The company updated
its financial reporting structure, confirming its 2017
In another sign of a better backdrop for the asset
management industry, British hedge fund Man Group shares
rose 4 percent after it reported net inflows over the first
"This is a very strong start to the year that is likely to
lead to consensus upgrades," said Liberum analysts.
Earlier this week peer fund manager Ashmore posted
net inflows for the first time in nearly three years, and on
Wednesday Henderson posted first quarter results,
showing assets were cushioned by market gains in the period.
Energy sector stocks were in the red, however, reeling from
a sharp slide in oil prices overnight. Lundin Petroleum
and Tullow Oil were among the top fallers in
(Reporting by Kit Rees and Helen Reid)