London: European shares rose for a ninth session on Monday, hitting a five-and-a-half week high, after China allowed more flexibility in the yuan exchange rate that boosted confidence in the global economy.
Mining stocks featured among the top performers as metal prices jumped on hopes a more flexible Chinese yuan would increase demand for industrial metals from the world’s largest consumer.
Anglo American, Antofagasta, BHP Billiton and Xstrata rose 3.8% to 4.6%.
By 0856 GMT, the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index of top shares was up 1.5% at 1,059.64 points.
But the index is only up 1.2% for the year, having suffered in April and May when fears of a sovereign credit crunch in the euro zone gripped investors.
Investor sentiment was lifted after China’s central bank signalled at the weekend that it was unshackling the currency from its de facto 23-month-old peg.
“It is a cheery start on the back of the Chinese statement,” said Jim Wood-Smith, head of research at Williams de Broe, adding the move is supportive for equities as it increases the global competitiveness of the US dollar.
“The dollar will depreciate against the yuan which will make American goods more attractive to the Chinese.”
Analysts have argued the Chinese currency has been undervalued and has given China an unfair advantage in world trade. The spot yuan rate jumped to its strongest level against the dollar since September 2008.
But in a lengthy statement about how currency reform would proceed, the central bank explicitly ruled out a one-off revaluation and repeatedly said there was no basis for any big appreciation, with the yuan’s value not far off its fair level.
Energy gains/BP slips
Energy stocks were also in favour, with crude oil prices rising 1.8%. BG Group, Royal Dutch Shell and Total gained 1.4% to 1.9%.
However, BP slipped 3.5% following accusations by the oil major’s partner in the leaking Macondo well, Anadarko Petroleum, that the concession operator’s conduct was “reckless” leading up to the Gulf of Mexico accident.
Also weighing on sentiment was a document indicating the worst-case scenario spill estimates were more than previously thought.
Banks were in demand as investors snapped up riskier asset classes. HSBC, Banco Santander and BBVA gained 1.6% to 2.1%.
Among individual stocks, Aegon rose 2.9% following a report that the Dutch insurer is preparing to sell its British life and pensions business, including Scottish Equitable, for £1.5 billion.
Across Europe, the FTSE 100 index was up 1.2%, Germany’s DAX was 1.5% higher and France’s CAC 40 gained 1.7%.
The Thomson Reuters Peripheral Eurozone Countries Index rose 1.8%.