London: European shares rose in a choppy session on Thursday morning with banks gaining ahead of JPMorgan Chase & Co figures and housing data from the United States.
By 02:19pm, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European companies was up 0.4% at 791.26 points having been as low as 786.93 points earlier.
“The market is going to remain volatile depending on news flow. I have a funny feeling JPMorgan figures are going to be good ... it really depends if there are any more write downs,” said David Buik, partner at BGC Partners.
Banks added the most points to the index. HSBC, Banco Santander, UBS, Barclays and Credit Suisse gained 1.4-4.6%.
“I would expect quite good figures from JPMorgan, but they are by no means the norm for the sector,” said Justin Urquhart Stewart, investment director at Seven Investment Management.
Later in the session, investors are expected to focus on results from tech bellwether Nokia.
“Nokia earnings will probably be about 80% down to what they were last time. We are concerned about the level of market share they may have lost (as) their smart phone clearly has not gone well at all. But, providing they are no worse than expectations, it probably will be okay,” Buik said.
Across Europe, the FTSE 100 index was up 0.7%, Germany’s DAX was 0.03% higher and France’s CAC 40 was up 0.2%.
Looking at macroeconomic news, US housing starts at 06:00pm will also be in the spotlight.
“The housing figures are likely to show that a little bit more confidence is coming back in and the market shows some signs of flattening,” said Urquhart Stewart.
Back to the upside, energy stocks gained as crude rose 1.3%. BG Group, BP and Tullow Oil added 0.2-0.9%.
Miners were higher with Antofagasta, BHP Billiton, Eurasian Natural Resources, Rio Tinto and Xstrata up 0.5-2.1%.
Roche was up 0.7% after first-quarter sales rose 8% and the group said it met forecasts thanks to the strong growth of blockbuster cancer drug Avastin.
Tempering investor optimism about a recovery was news that General Growth Properties, the second-largest US mall owner, had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from its creditors, making it one of the biggest victims of the credit crisis yet.
On the downside, the electricity sector heavily weighed on the index. Union Fenosa was down nearly 20%, while Drax, EDF and Endesa were 0.3-1% lower.
Food producers also fell, with Danone down 0.4% after its quarterly sales fell 2.3%.
Chip maker STMicroelectronics fell 1.3% after it said late on Wednesday it planned to cut its quarterly dividend by two-thirds, citing the “unstable market”.