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European shares end April with gains as earnings boost outweighs bank slide

German share price index DAX graph is pictured at the stock exchange in Frankfurt

By Shreyashi Sanyal

(Reuters) -European shares staged a late-day turnaround on Friday after upbeat earnings and a rise in oil stocks helped the main STOXX 600 index shrug off bleak euro zone data and a fall in bank stocks.

The STOXX 600 index gained 0.6% adding 1.9% this month, driven by earnings following a turbulent month of March after the collapse of two U.S. regional lenders and the Swiss state-sponsored rescue of Credit Suisse.

"The month is going out with some small upside for stocks, after a week in which earnings provided fresh good news," said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at online trading platform IG.

"But the first week of the new month will be equally as busy as the one just finished, with more big names reporting plus rate decisions and job numbers. There are still plenty of potential hurdles to any further gains in stocks."

Defensive sectors such as real-estate and healthcare, rose 5.2% and 4.7%, respectively, outpacing major European sectors for the month. Tech and miners were the top two monthly decliners, down 4.7% and 5.6%.

For the day, oil & gas stocks led gains, adding nearly 2% as crude prices advanced, offsetting falls in bank shares that fell 1.4%.

British bank NatWest slumped 3.7% after reporting a 20 billion pound fall in deposits in the first quarter. Still, London's FTSE 100 gained 3% in April, outpacing all major European peers.

Electrolux AB jumped 15.5% after the Swedish home appliances maker posted first quarter sales and operating loss above market expectations.

Mercedes-Benz Group AG rose 0.7% after the German automaker struck a slightly more optimistic tone alongside its first quarter results

German chemicals maker Covestro rose 8.5% on an upbeat 2023 core earnings forecast and the resumption of a share buyback programme.

Swedish forestry company SCA gained 7.0% after posting a smaller-than-expected fall in first-quarter core earnings.

Stocks fell earlier in the day after preliminary data showed the euro zone grew only marginally in the first three months of 2023 and at a rate lower than market expectations after stagnation at the end of last year.

"Data released on Friday confirmed that the euro-zone economy was broadly stagnant in Q4 and Q1," Jack Allen-Reynolds, deputy chief euro-zone economist at Capital Economics wrote in a note.

"Next week, April's inflation data are set to show that the core rate remained around its record high of 5.7%, which we think will encourage the ECB to raise rates by 50bp on Thursday."

(Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Shubham Batra; Editing by Sonia Cheema, Rashmi Aich and Jonathan Oatis)