European stocks close higher awaiting outcome on Greece

European stocks close higher awaiting outcome on Greece

The DAX index hit an intraday high of 11,013.85 points as the Frankfurt stock exchange was also driven by positive economic data -- and closed up 0.40 percent at 10,963.40 points.

European stock markets rose on Friday, with Germany's main index breaching 11,000 points for the first time, as Greece appeared closer to a possible overhaul of its multi-billion euro bailout.

London's benchmark FTSE 100 index ended the day up 0.67 percent to 6,873.52 points, while the CAC 40 in Paris gained 0.70 percent to 4,759.36 points, its highest level since June 2008.

Greece's benchmark Athex Composite index finished up over 5.0 percent as hope spread among investors that an agreement on the bailout may be found by a last-ditch Eurogroup meeting on Monday.

European stocks had already rallied on Thursday as markets welcomed a ceasefire and aid for Ukraine, while holding onto hopes for a deal over Greece's bailout.

"An increase in optimism where Greece and Eastern Ukraine is concerned enables traders to shift focus onto positive fundamentals like QE (stimulus) being implemented by the ECB and a weak euro resulting in improving economic growth prospects for the eurozone," said Markus Huber, senior analyst at brokers Peregrine & Black.

Greece's new Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras edged closer to securing a massive revamp of its huge bailout after making his case Thursday to sceptical EU leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, raising hopes that a solution can be found at a last-ditch Eurogroup meeting on Monday.

But Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem Friday cautioned that he was "pessimistic" about any quick deal on Greece.

"The Greeks have sky-high ambitions. The possibilities, given the state of the Greek economy, are limited," said Dijsselbloem, who is the Dutch finance minister, adding: "I don't know if we'll get there by Monday."

Meanwhile after 17-hour talks the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany on Thursday hammered out a blueprint to end the conflict between Kiev and pro-Moscow rebels.

The ceasefire is to take effect at midnight Sunday (2200 GMT Saturday) in Ukraine and heavy weapons are to be withdrawn from front lines.

In another boost the German economy, Europe's biggest, expanded surprisingly strongly in the fourth quarter of 2014, driven primarily by robust consumer spending, official data showed on Friday.

In the period from October to December, gross domestic product expanded by 0.7 percent, bringing full-year growth to 1.6 percent, the federal statistics office Destatis said in a statement.

And the official Eurostat agency said the eurozone economy expanded by 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter and 0.9 for all of 2014, slightly better than expected although still too weak to convincingly signal a full-blown recovery.

Around midday in New York, US stocks were also trading higher on the improved European data with the Dow Jones Industrial Average edging up 0.21 percent to 18,010.47 points.

The broad-based S&P 500 added 0.23 percent to stand at 2,093.23 points, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index rose 0.38 percent to 4,876.06.

In foreign exchange trade, the euro stabilised to $1.1412 from $1.1406 late in New York on Thursday.

By Ben Perry (AFP)

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