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European stocks advanced for a third day, pushing the Stoxx Europe 600 Index to a six-month high, as investors speculated that euro-area officials are nearing an agreement on a bailout for Greece.
Germany wants the currency area’s finance ministers to avoid separating the 130 billion-euro bailout for Greece from the planned bond swap with private creditors, officials from Europe’s largest economy said in a briefing to their country’s lawmakers. The finance chiefs of the 17 nations using the single currency meet on Feb. 20 in Brussels.
The Eurogroup meeting will probably approve the package and the debt exchange, three German officials involved in the telephone briefing yesterday said. A Finance Ministry spokesman declined to comment.
National benchmarks gained in every market except Norway. France’s CAC 40 Index and Germany’s DAX index both added 1.4 percent, while the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index rose 0.3 percent.
A gauge of European banks advanced 1.4 percent making the biggest contribution to the Stoxx 600’s rally. Societe Generale, France’s second-largest lender, jumped 6.5 percent to 24.03 euros. Santander, Spain’s biggest bank, increased 2 percent to 6.41 euros. RBS climbed 3.2 percent to 27.6 pence and Barclays Plc added 1.4 percent to 248.35 pence. Banco Espirito Santo SA, Portugal’s largest bank, jumped 5.5 percent to 1.72 euros.
Piraeus Bank SA rallied 14 percent to 64.2 euro cents. Alpha Bank SA surged 16 percent to 1.81 euros.
Anglo American climbed 1.1 percent to 2,674 pence after the producer of metals and minerals from Africa to Brazil said that underlying earnings increased to $5.06 a share in 2011 from $4.13 a share in 2010.
Aegon NV rallied 7 percent to 3.99 euros. The Dutch insurer, which owns Transamerica Corp., said it aims to increase underlying pretax profit by 7 percent to 10 percent a year on average until 2015 and to post a return on equity of 10 percent to 12 percent. The company also reported fourth-quarter net income of 79 million euros.
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