EUROPEAN shares closed higher yesterday with Sanofi Aventis leading pharmaceuticals higher after winning a US contract, and some analysts choosing to interpret a leading German economic survey positively. The FTSEurofirst 300 index of leading European shares rose 0.3 per cent to a provisional close of 858.57 points, after two sessions of losses.<br /><br />But trade was thin with UK markets remained closed for a holiday.<br /><br />Weaker-than-expected readings of the German business sector suggested that the nation’s firms continue to struggle. Germany’s Institute for Economic Research (IFO) said that its business climate index came in at 84.2, lower than forecasts for 85.0.<br /><br />The reading for current conditions was 82.5, also lower than expectations for 84.0. However, the expectations index came in at 85.9, higher than forecasts for 85.5.<br /><br />“The thing we can highlight today was the expectations from the IFO index were up for the fifth consecutive month, and this shows the trend of improving economic sentiment is intact,” said Tammo Greetfeld, equity strategist at Unicredit Group. Sanofi-Aventis gained 1.9 per cent after it won an order from the US government to produce a new influenza vaccine. Roche rose 1.6 per cent.<br /><br />But Porsche fell 2.7 per cent after the company confirmed media reports that it received a €700m (£616m) loan from Volkswagen to help with its finances.