European shares advanced in early deals on Friday, though France’s benchmark CAC 40 declined slightly ahead of the first round of voting in the French presidential election. The pan-European STOXX 600 index was up 0.1 percent, on track to mark its third session of straight gains, while France’s CAC fell 0.4 percent.
French food group Danone was the biggest faller on the CAC 40, down 2.4 percent after reporting first-quarter sales figures, which rose 0.7 percent, a sharp slowdown from 2.1 percent growth in the fourth quarter of 2016.
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French banks extended the previous session’s gains, with Societe Generale, BNP Paribas and Credit Agricole trading 0.2 percent to 1.2 percent higher. A rally in basic resources stocks underpinned broader gains, as the sector rose 1.9 percent on the back of supportive metals prices.
Earnings and deal-making drove the action at the single-stock level, with Germany’s Software AG climbing 4.6 percent to the top of the STOXX 600 after reporting first-quarter results. The software business maker’s quarterly core profit declined less than expected.
Engineering firm WS Atkins gained 4 percent after Canada’s SNC-Lavalin Group said it would buy the firm for C$3.6 billion ($2.67 billion), firming up an indicative offer it made earlier this month. Domino’s Pizza rose more than 3 percent after Peel Hunt raised its rating on the stock to “buy” from hold”.
(Reporting by Kit Rees, editing by Helen Reid)