European stocks rose this week as reports showing a decline in US jobless claims and increases in consumer confidence and durable-goods orders spurred optimism that the world’s biggest economy is strengthening.
The STOXX 600 Europe Index advanced 3.5 percent to 241.86 this past week. The gauge has risen 13 percent from this year’s low on Sept. 22 as eurozone leaders attempted to stem the region’s debt woes. The measure has still fallen 12 percent this year as the fiscal crisis spread from Greece to Italy and Spain.
“It’s a relief to see stabilization in the US economy,” said Guillaume Duchesne, an equity strategist at BGL BNP Paribas SA in Luxembourg.
“This stabilization allows us to focus less on the debt crisis in Europe. That’s favorable for the market, but it’s not time to become euphoric,” he added.
Fitch Ratings on Monday lowered France’s credit outlook and put the grades of nations including Spain and Italy on review for a downgrade, citing Europe’s failure to find a “comprehensive solution” to the debt crisis.
National benchmark indices rose in all of Europe’s 18 western markets, except Iceland. France’s CAC 40 Index surged 4.4 percent, the UK’s FTSE 100 Index gained 2.3 percent and Germany’s DAX increased 3.1 percent.
The volume of shares changing hands across Europe declined this week as the Christmas holiday approached. Trading on the STOXX 600 was 31 percent below the average for this year.
In Germany, business confidence increased this month, suggesting Europe’s largest economy is weathering the eurozone’s debt crisis. The sentiment gauge, based on a survey of 7,000 executives, rose to 107.2 from 106.6 last month, the Munich-based Ifo Institute said on Tuesday. The median economist forecast called for a drop to 106.