European stocks advanced for a fourth week, the longest winning streak in almost three months, as the region’s leaders eased constraints on national budgets and US retail sales and jobless benefit claims pointed to a recovery in the world’s biggest economy.
The STOXX Europe 600 Index gained 0.7 percent to 297.46 this past week. The gauge slipped 0.4 percent on Friday, retreating from the highest level since June 2008. Spain sold 803 million euros (US$1.05 billion) of debt at an extraordinary auction on Thursday and Italy issued 6.99 billion euros of securities the previous day. Ireland sold its first 10-year bond since receiving a EU-led bailout three years ago.
“The key driver is still of course the international monetary policy from central banks,” Kliegel & Hafner AG senior market strategist Andreas Lipkow said.
The STOXX 600 surged 6.4 percent this year as US politicians agreed on a compromise budget and the US Federal Reserve Thursday, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index of US shares climbed to within two points of its 1,565.15 record close set in October 2007.
EU leaders meeting in Brussels endorsed “structural” budgetary assessments, using code for granting countries such as France, Spain and Portugal extra time to bring down deficits. Still, balanced budgets remained the goal and there was no talk of large-scale spending programs.
In the US, applications for jobless benefits unexpectedly dropped to the lowest level in almost two months in the week ended on March 9. Retail sales and industrial production rose more than forecast last month, separate reports showed.
National benchmark indices climbed in in 12 of the 18 Western European markets. Germany’s DAX rallied 0.7 percent, while France’s CAC 40 and the UK’s FTSE 100 added 0.1 percent. The Swiss Market Index advanced 1.5 percent to the highest level since January 2008.
A gauge of insurers was the best performer among the 19 industry groups in the STOXX 600, gaining 2.4 percent. The insurers were led by the UK’s Prudential PLC, which rallied 14 percent, the biggest gain in 15 months.