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Euro shares rise on hope of ECB move

Friday, March 28 17:08:09

European stocks rallied today, with Milan's benchmark index hitting a near three-year high, lifted by mounting expectations that the European Central Bank will ease policy next week to support the region's fragile economic recovery.

Speculation that China could step in to stimulate its economy also helped lift sentiment, boosting shares of metal and mining stocks, with Anglo American up 2.6 percent and Glencore Xstrata up 2.4 percent.

At 1535 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was up 0.7 percent at 1,331.02 points, while Milan's FTSE MIB index was up 1.4 percent, hitting a level not seen since May 2011.

Banco Popolare rose 6.1 percent and was the biggest gainer on the index, the day after the lender set the price for a planned capital increase, while Telecom Italia was up 2.2 percent.

The MIB is up 13 percent so far this year, strongly outpacing other big European markets such as the UK's FTSE 100 , down 2 percent in 2014, and Germany's DAX, flat on the year, as well as Wall Street's S&P 500, up 0.8 percent.

"What's behind the recent euro zone peripheral stocks' outperformance is the expectation that the European Central Bank will soon unveil new measures, negative interest rates, or quantitative easing, there are many tools available," said David Thebault, head of quantitative sales trading at Global Equities.

"Expectations are quite high, so Draghi needs to deliver next week otherwise we'll have a correction on the market. But following the recent comments from ECB officials, the bank should announce something."