European shares rise to fresh two-month peak as oil majors rally

By Shristi Achar A and Bansari Mayur Kamdar

(Reuters) -European shares rose on Thursday, supported by gains in energy stocks, while investors digested minutes of the European Central Bank’s (ECB) October meeting where policymakers were cautiously optimistic about inflation falling in the euro zone.

The pan-European STOXX 600 added 0.3%, extending gains to notch a fresh two-month high.

The energy sector led sectoral gains, up 1.4% following two straight sessions of sharp losses.

Also lifting the benchmark index, healthcare stocks rose 0.7% with Novo Nordisk gaining 1.0% on announcing a $2.3 billion investment to boost production of its wildly popular weight-loss and diabetes drugs.

Euro zone inflation is falling as expected, or even a bit faster, but the European Central Bank must keep the possibility of an interest rate hike on the table, policymakers agreed last month, according to the accounts of their Oct. 25-26 meeting.

“The minutes underline the ECB’s more cautious take on the economy and, in fact, mark the next phase of monetary policy tightening: ending rate hikes and focusing on ‘high for longer’,” said Carsten Brzeski, global head of macro at ING Economics, in a note.

Market participants also digested the euro zone Composite Purchasing Managers’ Index data, which showed business activity in the region eased in November, and suggested the bloc’s economy will contract again this quarter as consumers continue to rein in spending.

Amsterdam’s AEX rose 0.3%, following a shock election win by the far-right politician Geert Wilders in the Netherlands.

“While the Freedom Party’s victory in the Dutch parliamentary election was a big surprise, there is in our view only a very small probability that it will have a substantial impact on financial markets,” said Hubert de Barochez, markets economist at Capital Economics.

Meanwhile, Sweden’s main stock index rose 0.5% after its central bank, Riksbank, kept its policy rate on hold at 4%.

Among stocks, Endesa fell 2.4% after the Spanish utility cut its 2023 outlook for profit.

Virgin Money UK slid 6.5% on reporting its annual profit below market estimates.

France’s LDC added 3.9% after the poultry producer posted a higher first half-year net profit and raised its annual forecast.

Analysts pointed to weaker trading volumes as U.S. markets were closed on account of the Thanksgiving holiday.

(Reporting by Shristi Achar A and Bansari Mayur Kamdar in Bengaluru; Editing by Mrigank Dhaniwala and Sharon Singleton)