Politics

European shares start March higher as Moncler, WPP shine

* STOXX 600 rises 0.4 pct

* European stocks hit 5-month highs in early deals

* RELX sinks after university contract loss (Updates prices, adds comment)

LONDON, March 1 (Reuters) - European shares rose tofive-month highs on Friday, starting the month on a strongfooting, as a fresh batch of corporate updates fuelled riskappetite, even after U.S. President Donald Trump raised someconcerns over trade talks with China.

The pan-regional STOXX 600 .STOXX index closed up 0.4percent after hitting its highest since Oct. 8 earlier in thesession.

"Momentum has flagged slightly in recent sessions andconcrete news of an agreement between the U.S. and China is nowneeded to prolong the rally in risk assets," wrote Peel Huntanalyst Ian Williams. In the meantime it was up to corporateearnings to maintain morale, he added.

Gains spread across all regional bourses with Germany'sexporter-heavy DAX .GDAXI leading the charge thanks notably torising car makers stocks.

"If corporate profits do grow, which I think they will,equities look reasonably good value," said Edward Rumble,European equity portfolio manager at RWC Partners.

The Dublin bourse .ISEQ was up 1.3 percent, outperformingits European peers as worries that Britain will crash out of theEuropean Union without a deal at the end of this month eased.The market is often seen as a barometer for Brexit sentiment.

The optimism on markets came despite mixed news fromeconomic indicators.

Data showed euro-zone manufacturing activity went intoreverse for the first time in more than five years, but Germanretail sales jumped and the bloc's powerhouse unemploymentremained at record lows.

Still, the market pared some of its earlier gains in theafternoon after data showed February U.S. manufacturing activitydropped to its lowest since November 2016.

"Fridays have been good days for markets of late, andinvestors are hoping that the same trick will be repeated today,with some 'first day of the month' inflows helping as well,"said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG.

"However, optimism has been dampened by a poor run of U.S.data, with the ISM manufacturing PMI and personal spending bothweaker, plus a downward revision to consumer confidence."

Among individual moves, Italian luxury group MonclerMONC.MI stole the spotlight, rising 11.1 percent for its bestday since January 2014 after its 2018 results, which brokerJefferies called "remarkable".

Moncler peer benefited from the rally with Gucci ownerKering PRTP.PA up 3.2 percent, LVMH LVMH.PA up 1.5 percentand Burberry rose 3.1 percent.

Britain'sWPPWPP.L , the world's biggest advertisingcompany, rose 4.9 percent after its full-year results came as arelief amid fears the industry is facing structural headwinds.

Investors have been cautious about the company since Frenchrival Publicis earlier this month results alarmed the market.

Rheinmetall was the second-best performer on the STOXX 600,rising 9.9 percent after its profits surge.

Among financials, Jupiter Fund Management was another biggainer, up 7.1 percent after its dividend beat estimates.

"The company paid out 90 percent of underlying earnings,driving the beat," write KBW analysts.

It was a different story for hedge fund manager Man GroupEMG.L which lost 2.6 percent after reporting funds undermanagement fell last year.

RELXREL.L sank 6.9 percent to the bottom of the FTSE 100,for its worst daily performance in almost a decade, after theUniversity of California canceled its contract with thecompany's Elsevier publishing arm.

Liberum analysts said the deal loss won't have a materialimpact on earnings in the short term.

But it will reignite concerns about the concept of "openaccess", which the university says should mean research shouldbe freely available to the public and not behind a paywall. (Reporting by Julien Ponthus and Josephine Mason, additionalreporting by Helen Reid; Editing by Helen Reid and JosephineMason) ((julien.ponthus@thomsonreuters.com; 02075426189; ReutersMessaging: julien.ponthus.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))


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