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MENAFN - AFP - 01/11/2012

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(MENAFN - AFP) European stocks rose on Thursday on a barrage of positive earnings reports and buoyant US data, shrugging of the latest twist in Greece's saga to unlock bailout funding.

London's FTSE 100 index of top companies jumped 1.37 percent to 5,861.92 points, while in Paris the CAC 40 advanced 1.35 percent to 3,475.40 points and Frankfurt's DAX 30 gained 1.03 percent to 7,335.67 points.

In foreign exchange activity, the euro eased slightly to 1.2940 from 1.2958 in New York on Wednesday. Gold prices slid to 1,716.25 an ounce at the evening fixing on the London Bullion Market, from 1,719 the day before.

Some buoyant data on consumer confidence and the manufacturing sector gave Wall Street a solid bump higher Thursday.

In midday trading the Dow Jones industrial average was up 0.92 percent at 13,216.61 points.

The broad-based S&P 500 gained 0.87 percent to 1,424.51 points, while the Nasdaq added 1.25 percent to 3,014.30 points.

The markets jumped higher on a gain in consumer confidence: the Conference Board index for October rose to 72.2 in October, up from a revised 68.4 in September and better than forecasts.

Also helping was a slight rise in the ISM's purchasing manager index for the industrial sector, to 51.7 percent from September's 51.5 percent reading.

US weekly jobless claims continued to decline, falling a modest 9,000 to 363,000 last week, the Labor Department said Thursday.

New claims for unemployment insurance benefits in the week to October 27 -- an indicator of the pace of layoffs -- came in below the four-week moving trend of 367,250.

The focus now switches to hotly-awaited non-farm payrolls numbers on Friday.

"The seesawing in European markets this week has continued today with a strong push higher as positive earnings reports have prompted investors to adopt a less cautious approach and push equity markets back towards their highest levels this week," said Michael Hewson, Senior Market Analyst at CMC Markets UK.

ETX Market Strategist Ishaq Siddiqi said "a deluge of upbeat (US) economic data which raises confidence after Sandy's devastation" helped the markets advance further in the afternoon.

Asian stock markets were mixed, with stronger Chinese manufacturing data providing support as Tokyo's rise was stunted by a huge slump in electronics giant Panasonic.

Data showed China's manufacturing activity expanded in October for the first time in three months, adding to renewed optimism that the world's number two economy is beginning to awake from its recent slumber.

The purchasing managers' index (PMI) stood at 50.2 last month, from 49.8 in September, according to official figures. A PMI reading above 50 indicates expansion while anything below points to contraction.

In response, Shanghai surged 1.72 percent, Hong Kong gained 0.83 percent and Tokyo added 0.21 percent, but Seoul and Sydney finished in negative territory.

The results season was in full swing in London.

State-rescued Lloyds bank saw its share price soar by 8.28 percent to 43.9 pence, despite news that it has set aside 1.0 billion (1.6 billion, 1.2 billion euros) to compensate clients who were mis-sold insurance.

Lloyds Banking Group, which is 39.6-percent owned by the taxpayer after a vast bailout at the height of the global financial crisis, added that it faced a net loss of 361 million in the three months to the end of September.

However, that marked an improvement from a shortfall of 501 million a year earlier, as it cut bad debts and narrowed losses from its non-core businesses.

Meanwhile, heavyweight Royal Dutch Shell posted a slight 2.0-percent rise in net profit to 7.139 billion (5.514 billion euros) in the third quarter, saying it had faced "volatile energy markets".

Adjusted net profit -- a key measure stripping out changes in the value of inventories and other non-operating items -- fell 6.0 percent to 6.56 billion but this beat market expectations of 6.31 billion.

Investors warmed to the results, sending Shell's "A" share price up 2.45 percent to 2,177 pence.

European markets shrugged off a comment by the IMF that talks on releasing bailout funds needed to stave off Greece's looming bankruptcy had become stuck.

The Greek exchange's key index fell by five percent however, with the banking stocks sub-index plunging by 11.7 percent.

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has said the coffers in Athens will run dry on November 16 unless his country receives the next 31.2 billion euros (40.4 billion) in rescue funding.

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