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European shares rise

Source: Reuters - Thu 4th Feb 2010

European shares rose on Thursday ahead of rate decisions by the Bank of England and the European Central Bank, led by Vodafone after it raised its outlook, but Royal Dutch Shell fell after results.

By 8:20 a.m., the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index of top shares was up 0.2 percent at 1,022.54 points.

"We have had on balance decent earnings growth coming through" said Bernard McAlinden, market strategist at NCB Stockbrokers.

"Banco Santander results should relieve some of the worries about the peripheral economies with the focus now shifted to Spain."

Investors will await the ECB rate decision at 1245 GMT and the Bank of England decision at 1200 GMT. Both are expected to keep rates unchanged.

Telecommunication stocks were in demand. Vodafone, the world's largest mobile phone operator by revenue, gained 3.3 percent after it raised its outlook after posting third-quarter revenue ahead of forecasts due to cost cuts and an improving picture in Europe.

Energy stocks featured among the worst performers. Royal Dutch Shell slipped 1.6 percent after it posted a 75 percent fall in fourth quarter profits to $1.18 billion, as it was punished for its strong positions in the ailing natural gas and refining businesses.

Banks were also on the downside. Deutsche Bank lost 0.3 percent despite beating market forecasts to swing to a fourth quarter net profit of 1.3 billion euros (1.1 billion pounds).

Santander, the euro zone's biggest bank, fell 0.1 percent although it beat expectations with a 0.7 percent rise in 2009 net profit after boosting provisions for bad debts from the collapse of Spain's housing boom.

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