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European shares inch higher on strong earnings, ECB maintains status quo

·2-min read
Bull and bear symbols for successful and bad trading are seen in front of the German stock exchange (Deutsche Boerse) in Frankfurt

By Anisha Sircar and Ambar Warrick

(Reuters) - European stocks closed slightly higher on Thursday, buoyed by robust earnings from food and technology stocks, as the European Central Bank kept its massive stimulus taps open and maintained its view that a recent spike in inflation would be temporary.

The pan-European STOXX 600 closed 0.2% higher with food and beverage and technology sectors gaining 1.6% and 1.3%, respectively.

Beer brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev surged 10.3% on a surprise rise in third-quarter profit, while French IT services provider Capgemini added 6.0% on strong earnings and outlook.

Anheuser-Busch was the top boost to the Belgian stock benchmark, which jumped 1.7%.

But broader gains were held back by weak earnings from the energy and automobile sectors.

Oil major Royal Dutch Shell dropped 3.0% after reporting third-quarter profit below expectations, hitting shares of peers BP and TotalEnergies.

Equity markets reacted little to the ECB's decision, which was largely as expected. The bank is likely to make a decision on its pandemic-related emergency stimulus in December.

"If you're an equity trader, you're flying. There's still no sign that monetary policy is going to be tightened," said Stuart Cole, head macro economist at Equiti Capital.

But investors questioned the bank's stance on transitory inflation, with preliminary data on Thursday showing consumer prices in the euro zone's largest economy rose more than expected in October.

"Some of the strength in the German figure were as a result of base effects, but even taking this into account it is hard not to conclude that inflationary pressures are increasing," Equiti Capital's Cole said.

German stocks fell 0.1% after the data.

Volkswagen, Europe's largest carmaker, dropped 4.5% after cutting its outlook for deliveries and reporting lower-than-expected quarterly profit due to the global chip crunch. The wider auto index fell 0.8%.

(GRAPHIC: European auto stocks have rallied to near record highs this year - https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/dwpkrabznvm/Pasted%20image%201635407981108.png)

Swedish online gambling firm Evolution slumped 8.2%, and was among the worst performers on the STOXX 600 after a disappointing quarterly report.

European stocks are still set for strong gains in October on a swathe of positive earnings, which pushed the STOXX 600 close to record highs.

Profits for Europe Inc are expected to increase 52% in the third quarter from last year, according to Refinitiv data.

Airbus rose 1.8% after the world's largest commercial planemaker raised its full-year financial targets.

Lloyds Banking Group rose 1.3% as it upgraded its outlook after posting a better-than-expected quarterly profit.

(Reporting by Anisha Sircar and Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru; Editing by Christina Fincher and Bernadette Baum)

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