European shares set for 7th week of gains

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July 20, 2012, 11:12 a.m. | World — by Reuters

A man checks a monitor displaying stock exchange index, in Milan, Italy, Wednesday, July 18, 2012. The 17 countries that use the euro have to integrate their economies further if they are to emerge from their economic crisis intact, the International Monetary Fund said Wednesday.
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LONDON — Europe's top shares fell on Friday but remained on course for a seventh straight week of gains as expectations of further stimulus measures in the United States and robust corporate earnings offset a weak macroeconomic outlook.

By 0704 GMT, the FTSEurofirst was down 3.03 points, or 0.3 percent, at 1,061.44, after closing at its highest level since early April, albeit in low volumes, on Thursday, and having bounced from a 14.5 percent fall from mid-March to the start of June.

Recent reports from the International Monetary Fund on the UK and euro zone economies has painted a particularly bearish macro picture and kept alive hopes of further quantitative easing.

A fairly robust start to the earnings season has also helped, with roughly 15 percent of those due to do report having done so, beating consensus estimates by around 6 percent, Thomson Reuters Starmine data showed, albeit from watered down expectations.

"That is the cocktail (that is driving the indexes) it is somewhere between more monetary easing ... and earnings where there has been a few pleasant surprises,"Richard Hunter, head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown, said.

Hunter said market momentum could be maintained even if the U.S. Federal Reserve -- the last main central bank yet to embark on a fresh round of stimulus -- fails to give the market what it wants in the form of more quantitative easing because the justification for that would be improving economic data, which would in turn be a lift to sentiment.

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