UK stocks : FTSE closes up 0.3 pct
Some strategists have forecast limited gains in the first quarter for European equities, following a strong run in the second half of 2012 after the European Central Bank pledged new measures to tackle the debt crisis which had led to fears of economic implosion.
However, traders said that those betting on a market fall with 'short' positions were increasingly cancelling those bets to cover their losses and instead buying, contributing to the market rally.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index ended up 0.3 percent at 1,171.06 points - a new closing high for 2013. Earlier in the day, the index had reached an intraday high of 1,171.78 points, its best level since early March 2011.
The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index gained 0.5 percent to 2,722.96 points, with stock markets further boosted after the U.S. S&P 500 index rose above the key 1,500 point level for the first time since December 2007.
Mirabaud Securities' European equity sales executive Rupert Baker said investors were prepared to overlook lingering signs of economic weakness, such as a downturn in France, and were favouring German equities over other regional European markets.
PMI business survey data from Germany showed its private sector expanding at its fastest pace in a year this month. But in France it showed a deepening downturn.
Baker added that investors were increasingly moving away from bonds and cash
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