Earnings help European shares extend best streak of the year

Reuters - UK Focus

* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.3 pct

* SocGen (Paris: FR0000130809 - news) , Total (NYSE: TOT - news) , Heineken (Other OTC: HEINY - news) all gain after company reports

* Broader market lifted by good China trade data

* Debt ceiling relief in the U.S., Yellen testimony supports

By Alistair Smout

LONDON, Feb 12 (Reuters) - One of Europe's top regionalindexes extended its best winning streak of the year onWednesday, buoyed by good earnings and bullish news from Chinaand the United States to rise for a sixth straight session.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 was up 0.3percent to 1,321.29 at 0830 GMT, taking gains over the last sixsessions to 4 percent as the index continued its bounce from6-week lows made earlier in the month.

In a heavy day for earnings reports, Societe Generale led gainers, up 3.9 percent after saying it would usea swing to profit in the fourth quarter to return more capitalto shareholders in 2014.

"SocGen reported a good, solid set of numbers... There'snothing not to like in SocGen," said Toby Campbell-Gray, head oftrading at Tavira Securities, adding that the return to profitand higher dividend were highlights.

Adding the most points to the index were French oil and gasfirm Total, also benefiting after results from adecision to raise its dividend.

Heineken rose 2.8 percent after its own results.Although profits were in-line with expectations, the brewer saidit saw a return to revenue growth in 2014 after a tough yearlast year, and analysts at Liberum Capita said the resultsslightly beat expectations on the sales front.

Only three sectors were in negative territory, aftersentiment to riskier assets was lifted by good trade data fromChina and a strong session on Wall Street.

China surprised markets with a thumping trade performance inJanuary as import growth hit a six-month high and the value ofexports rose 10.6 percent, drawing some scepticism about thedata but still allaying fears of a deepening economic malaise.

"On the China figures, the export number is so far aboveconsensus you have to question it," Darren Sinden, trader atTitan Investment Partners, said.

"Oil imports number was up sharply too which could implyincreasing growth but I think we will need to see confirmationbefore jumping to that conclusion."

U.S. stocks had risen for a fourth straight session onTuesday as Congress agreed to advance legislation extending U.S.borrowing authority, and the Federal Reserve's new chief heldoff from making any changes to its schedule for trimmingstimulus.

"Yellen didn't rock the boat but she didn't say anythingthat was particularly new," Sinden said, who also cautioned thatthe bounce from the debt deal may not last long.

"Despite the relief that an agreement was reached and morebrinkmanship and possible default was avoided, all they havedone is agree to borrow more, not set any plans to reducedebt... which will surely need to be addressed."

Europe bourses in 2014:

Asset performance in 2014:

Today's European research round-up

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