ECONOMY

Europe stocks climb for third day as Greek, Italian shares gain

European stocks extended a seven- week high, led by equities from the region’s periphery. US index futures were little changed before the release of minutes from the Federal Reserve’s last policy meeting.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index rose 0.3 percent to 340.23 at 12:29 p.m. in London, reversing a loss of as much as 0.3 percent. Greece’s ASE Index rallied 3.1 percent for the biggest gain among 18 western-European markets. Italy’s FTSE MIB Index advanced 0.9 percent.

“So far, markets are still pretty relaxed and convinced that the Fed won’t do much damage,” said Ralf Zimmermann, an equity strategist at Bankhaus Lampe KG in Dusseldorf, Germany. “Whether this conviction will hold true all the time in upcoming months remains to be seen. Investors will screen the minutes for any fresh hints about the fights between the doves and the hawks at the Fed and the pace of the future rate path.”

Standard & Poor’s 500 Index futures rose less than 0.1 percent. The Fed will release its minutes after the close of European trading hours. The central bank ended its bond-buying program last month amid an improving labor market. The S&P 500 jumped the most since Nov. 5 to a record yesterday.

The Stoxx 600 climbed 1.1 percent in the past two days as German investor confidence rose and Mario Draghi said the European Central Bank’s expanded purchase program could include government bonds. The gauge has rallied 9.8 percent since its low last month as most lenders in Europe passed capital-strength tests, and Japan’s central bank added stimulus.

In the UK, where the FTSE 100 Index was little changed, Bank of England policy makers voted 7-2 to keep interest rates at a record low, according to minutes of the Monetary Policy Committee’s Nov. 5-6 meeting. Some of the majority began to raise concerns about potential inflation pressures.

Greek, Italian and Spanish stocks had some of the biggest advances. Abengoa SA rallied for a third day, up 9.5 percent to 2.43 euros. Banco Popolare SC increased 3.3 percent to 10.40 euros, and Piraeus Bank SA climbed 5.4 percent to 1.17 euros.

Assicurazioni Generali SpA rose 1.7 percent to 16.78 euros, the most since June. Italy’s largest insurer said it has reached most of its targets ahead of schedule.

Banks contributed the most to the Stoxx 600 advance, while commodity producers posted the biggest losses. Rio Tinto Group dropped 1.6 percent to 2,955.5 pence as iron ore tumbled to the lowest in more than five years. Anglo American Plc fell 2.1 percent to 1,334.5 pence.

ICAP Plc lost 7.8 percent to 396.1 pence after the world’s largest broker of transactions between banks said pretax profit fell 10 percent in the first half of its fiscal year. Royal Mail Plc declined 7.4 percent to 434.5 pence after the British postal service said first-half profit dropped and warned that Amazon.com Inc.’s move to develop its own delivery network will trim the parcel market for other carriers.

The volume of Stoxx 600 shares changing hands was 22 percent lower than the 30-day average, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. [Bloomberg]