LONDON (Reuters) - European shares hit a six-week high on Thursday adding to solid gains after global manufacturing data eased fears about the growth outlook, but with Greek debt talks unresolved, gains were limited.
“As long as there’s no bad news, no default in any European countries, markets should keep on trickling upwards,” said Mark Priest, senior trader at ETX Capital.
Markets will be watching the strength of demand at bond auctions by Spain and France for confirmation that the euro zone debt crisis fears are easing.
“People are now becoming increasingly used to positive results on the auctions at the moment. They’ve got the potential (to boost the euro), particularly if they had a very healthy bid to cover ratio,” Simon Derrick, head of currency research at Bank of New York Mellon said.
The euro was trading at around $1.3150 off its earlier highs of $1.3197. The dollar hovered around a three-month low against the yen of 76.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares .FTEU3, which closed at a high not seen since early August on Wednesday,
was up 0.2 percent at 1,059.29 points.
Equity markets around the world rose after data showed U.S. factory activity had expanded at its strongest pace in seven months in January, and the manufacturing sectors in Germany and China were more resilient than many had expected in the face of the euro zone debt crisis.
“The manufacturing data has given the market a temporary break from risk aversion, but it is very vulnerable with some doubts over how much the positive mood would be sustained,” said Mitsuru Sahara, chief FX manager, Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi-UFJ.
German government bonds slipped on Thursday before the Spanish and French debt sales as signs that a Greek debt swap deal was nearing completion supported peripheral debt.
Spain is expected to maintain the trend of strong sales from the euro zone periphery at an auction of up to 4.5 billion euros 3-, 4- and 5-year bonds.
France also sells up to 8 billion euros of bonds including a new 10-year OAT.
U.S. weekly jobless claims data will be published at 8:30 a.m. ET, with the number of new applicants expected to come in at 375,000, a slight decline from 377,000 last week.
The release will be closely scrutinized as investors look for indications on the U.S. job market ahead of Friday’s all-important non-farm payrolls release for January.
Additional reporting by Brian Gorman and Nia Williams; editing by Anna Willard