European stocks near 11-month high

EUROPEAN shares closed higher yesterday, led by UKchocolate giant <strong>Cadbury</strong> which soared 38 per cent following a &pound;10.2bn bid approach from US company <strong>Kraft Foods</strong>.<br /><br />The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index of top shares rose 1.4 per cent to 975.90 points, just 0.3 per cent away from an 11-month closing high. The European benchmark index has risen more than 51 per cent since it hit a lifetime low of 9 March as investor confidence about prospects of economic recovery have grown.<br /><br />All major sectors rose yesterday, with food companies among the most notable gainers.<br /><br />&ldquo;Positive sentiment from Friday&rsquo;s close on Wall Street and bid speculation on Cadbury are igniting things a little bit,&rdquo; said Philippe Gijsels, senior equity strategist at Fortis Banks.<br /><br />Other analysts said the market lacked direction with Wall Street closed for the Labor Day holiday.<br /><br />Volumes were 70.6 per cent of the 90-day average.<br /><br />&ldquo;Everybody is cautious, and positioned for a downturn, but you need a trigger. The trend for the moment is sideways,&rdquo; said Giuseppe-Guido Amato, strategist at Lang &amp; Schwarz. &ldquo;Last week, we had good indicators, but the market couldn&rsquo;t go up.&rdquo;<br /><br /><strong>Swiss Re</strong> rose 3.4 per cent after saying reinsurance prices were rising overall and it was well positioned for the January 2010 renewals season, with a considerably strengthened capital base. Other insurers to rise included <strong>Aegon, Aviva, AXA, </strong>and <strong>Legal &amp; General, </strong>up between 2.3 and 3.5 per cent.<br /><br />Banks to gain included <strong>Barclays, Credit Suisse, HSBC</strong> and <strong>UniCredit,</strong> up between 1 and 2.4 per cent.<br /><br />Spain&rsquo;s <strong>Telefonica</strong> rose 2.1 per cent after the telecoms company said on Sunday it had reached a deal with <strong>China Unicom </strong>whereby each would buy $1bn(&pound;612m) of the other&rsquo;s shares as part of a strategic alliance.<br /><br />Across Europe, the FTSE 100 index rose 1.7 per cent to its highest close in more than 11 months. Germany&rsquo;s DAX and France&rsquo;s CAC 40 both rose 1.5 per cent.<br /><br />The market got support after the G20 said it would not remove economic stimulus until the global recovery was well established.