November 21, 2014 / 5:32 PM / 5 years ago

European shares surge on China's rate cut and dovish ECB comments

* FTSEurofirst 300 led higher by miners and euro zone banks

* First Chinese interest rate cut in more than two years

* Comments from ECB’s Draghi help to boost sentiment

* Italy’s MIB index enjoys biggest rally since mid-2012

By Blaise Robinson

PARIS, Nov 21 (Reuters) - European stocks rallied on Friday, with a benchmark index hitting a two-month high, propelled by dovish comments from European Central Bank President Mario Draghi and a surprise interest rate cut in China.

Mining shares, highly sensitive to economic growth in China, featured among the top gainers, with Rio Tinto gaining 6.2 percent and BHP Billiton 5 percent. The STOXX basic resources sector index, which had tumbled nearly 20 percent in the past four months, rose 5.7 percent.

“It comes right after China’s disappointing PMI figures showing that manufacturing activity is getting dangerously close to contraction,” said IG France chief market analyst, Alexandre Baradez.

“China’s central bank is now following the path of the Fed, the ECB and the BoJ. Central banks are really driving markets.”

China’s rate cut, the first in more than two years, was in response to stalled factory growth and persistent weakness in real estate. Both are dragging on broader activity and curbing demand for everything from furniture to cement and steel.

“This comes as a surprise from China’s central bank. They’ve been reluctant to use rates to boost the economy because of fears of fuelling a credit bubble, so this shows that they are increasingly concerned about the economic outlook,” Saxo Bank trader Andrea Tueni said.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares ended up 2.1 percent at 1,384.91 points, surging to a level not seen in two months. The euro zone’s blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index rose 3 percent.

Sentiment was also lifted on Friday by comments from ECB chief Mario Draghi which fuelled speculation that the ECB will inject further monetary stimulus into the euro zone economy.

Speaking at a congress in Frankfurt, Draghi highlighted weak economic activity indicators from the bloc and said the central bank would broaden the size, pace and composition of its asset purchase programme if needed.

Italy’s MIB index surged 3.9 percent in its biggest one-day rise since mid-2012, led by a sharp rebound in banking share such as Banco Popolare, up 5.4 percent.

Overall, euro zone banks, which have a high exposure to the region’s economy and significant holdings of sovereign debt, surged 3.6 percent.

Europe bourses in 2014:

Asset performance in 2014:

Today’s European research round-up (Additional reporting by Francesco Canepa; Editing by Andrew Roche)

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