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Source: Reuters

European shares head for 7th session of gains

Published: 29 Apr 2011 03:46:08 PST

* FTSEurofirst 300 rises 0.07 percent

* Yara, Novozymes gain on strong results; Daimler falls

* For up-to-the-minute market news, click on

LONDON, April 29 - European shares edged up on Friday, heading for a seventh straight session of gains, as some analysts said equities would be supported by positive company earnings and a steadily improving economic backdrop.

Fertiliser maker Yara and industrial enzymes producer Novozymes posted strong quarterly results, sending their shares 4.8 and 5.2 percent higher respectively. German carmaker Daimler, however, shed 1.8 percent as its first-quarter results were viewed as not robust enough.

Strong corporate earnings from the United States have helped push equities across the Atlantic higher in recent weeks despite the impact of Japan's devastating earthquake on global supply chains, unrest in the oil-rich Middle East and North Africa and the euro zone sovereign debt crisis.

But European companies, which kicked off the reporting season later than the U.S., have so far lagged their American peers in terms of the number of beats against market forecasts.

"Everybody that is a true earnings watcher knows coming in to this the comparison is getting more and more difficult on a quarter-to-quarter and more importantly on a year-on-year basis. Earnings are getting more demanding each time, so you are going to expect some variability," said Nick Tranter, head of derivatives at Espirito Santo in London. "Even if they are coming in a tad light, or there is some issues about margins ... provided if you don't see analysts radically pull their numbers down, you can probably get through this and still be seen as a relatively positive reporting season."

By 1112 GMT, the Euro STOXX 50 -- an index of the euro zone's top blue chips -- was up 0.1 percent at 3,007.70, while the broader FTSEurofirst 300 was up 0.07 percent at 1,154.47, after hitting an eight-week closing high on Thursday.

Volumes were relatively light as the UK market was closed for a holiday to mark the wedding of Prince William, the second-in-line to the throne.

Tranter recommended investors, who are unsure of the earnings season outlook but worry about being left behind as the market squeezes higher, can pick up the options to buy Euro STOXX 50 index in June at 3,050.

Nearly 60 percent of 81 STOXX Europe 600 companies that have reported first quarter earnings beat or met analysts' forecasts, data from Thomson Reuters StarMine showed.

By comparison, 79 percent of 305 S&P 500 companies that have unveiled quarterly results that beat or met market expectations.

Solar stocks were in demand on Friday after France's Total offered to pay up to $1.37 billion for a majority stake in U.S. solar firm SunPower Corp.

Q-Cells, SMA Solar, Phoenix Solar and SolarWorld climbed between 4.4 and 5.7 percent.

Deutsche Bank, BNP Paribas, Credit Suisse, UBS and Commerzbank were flat to 0.8 percent higher.

The five were among 16 global banks being investigated by the European Commission over possible abuse or collusion over the credit default swaps market.

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