Article Highlights

  • STOXX 600 up 0.2 pct
  • Switzerland's Geberit leads gainers
  • London's FTSE down 0.1 pct
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European shares notched up modest gains on Thursday, failing to match a rally that lifted Wall Street and Asia to new records.

The pan-European STOXX 600 was up 0.2 percent by 0911 GMT but the UK’s FTSE was down almost 0.3 percent.

Switzerland’s Geberit posted the best performance among European stocks, with a 4.8 percent rise after reporting a 3.5 percent increase in 2017 sales.

In France, Carrefour led the CAC 40 higher with a 2 percent rise, with traders saying stronger-than-expected fourth quarter sales from the supermarket chain had offset the negative impact of a new profit forecast cut.

In Frankfurt, German chipmaker Infineon led the DAX higher, adding 3.4 percent after getting a rating upgrade from Goldman Sachs.

The tech sector was the best performer throughout Europe, up 1 percent with STMicro leading Milan’s bourse with a 1.9 percent rise. Strong results by ASML had lifted investors’ spirits on the industry during the previous session.

Telecoms were the worst performing sector, with BT and Vodafone losing 1.3 percent and 1.8 percent respectively.

In the UK, Whitbread rose 2.3 percent despite reporting tough consumer market conditions after sources told Reuters that activist investor Sachem Head was asking Britain’s biggest hotel and coffee shop operator to consider splitting off the Costa Coffee chain.

“The pressure on the UK high street may indeed make this the time for Whitbread to at least look at its options. Break up rumors could support the share price even in the face of weaker LFL (like-for-like) sales growth,” said ETX Capital senior market analyst Neil Wilson.

Primark owner Associated British Foods was down almost 4 percent after saying that revenues and profits at its sugar business would fall by more than previously expected due to lower European Union sugar prices.

In Belgium, Ablynx rose 1.3 percent after its largest shareholder said Denmark’s Novo Nordisk would need to raise its offer if it wanted to buy the Belgian biotech group.