European stocks rose for a fourth week as the region’s leaders agreed to address flaws in their bailout programs to ease the sovereign-debt crisis.
The STOXX Europe 600 Index climbed 1.9 percent to 251.17 this week, extending the longest stretch of gains since January, after policymakers eased repayment rules for Spanish banks, relaxed conditions for possible aid to Italy and unveiled a US$150 billion economic growth plan. The advance pushed the measure to the highest level since May 11 and trimmed the second-quarter decline to 4.6 percent.
“The results were as good as we could have expected from the summit,” said Derry Pickford, at Ashburton Ltd in Jersey, the Channel Islands. “There are two important caveats: Expectations were very low and the measures are short-term analgesics rather than fundamental cures.”
National benchmark indexes climbed in all 18 western European markets this week. The UK’s FTSE 100 increased 1 percent, France’s CAC 40 rose 3.4 percent and Germany’s DAX added 2.4 percent. Norway’s OBX surged 5.9 percent for the biggest gain this year.
The STOXX 600 rallied 4.8 percent this month, the most since October. The increase brought the index’s advance in the first half of this year to 2.7 percent.
Attention will now turn to the European Central Bank, which holds its next policy meeting on Thursday. The bank has acted following political progress before, buying bonds after the establishment of bailout programs in 2010 and giving banks unlimited three-year loans following last year’s pledge to deliver fiscal discipline.
Officials will lower their benchmark interest rate by 25 basis points to a record low 0.75 percent, according to the median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of 57 economists. Five predict a cut of 50 basis points and 12 foresee no change.
“Equities have put on a good showing at the end of the first half of the year,” said Jeremy Batstone-Carr, head of research at Charles Stanley & Co in London. “Investors are pinning their hopes on additional monetary easing, but we are still [seeing] fading rallies and not yet looking to buy the dips.”
Construction firms led gains in the STOXX 600 this week, climbing 4.5 percent as a group. CRH, the world’s second-biggest maker of building materials, rose 12 percent in London trading, the most since December. Lafarge SA, the largest cement maker, rose 6.1 percent.
Even after the EU measures announced at the summit, bank shares posted the second-worst performance among the 19 industry groups in the STOXX 600.
Barclays PLC, Britain’s second-largest bank by assets, slumped 19 percent for the biggest decline since August last year. The company will pay a record ￡290 million (US$455 million) fine after investigators found traders and senior managers “systematically” tried to manipulate Libor, the benchmark rate for US$360 trillion of securities. Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC declined 11 percent.