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20.02.2015 11:30

European stocks traded at a seven-year high

European stocks traded at a seven-year high as Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis returns to Brussels to meet his euro-area counterparts seeking an agreement that will let Europe's most-indebted country avoid default.

"Markets expect a solution which keeps Greece in the euro zone, but for the moment all news will increase volatility due to uncertainty," said Guillermo Hernandez Sampere, who helps manage about 150 million euros ($170 million) at MPPM EK in Eppstein, Germany. "We will have another day with a lot of noise, which always has short-term effects on markets."

Varoufakis said on Thursday that he would accept the financial and procedural conditions of the existing bailout deal, while asking for negotiations on other elements. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble almost immediately rebuffed the proposal. Later, optimism returned after a "positive" conversation between Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Euro-area manufacturing and services strengthened this month, with Markit Economics' composite purchasing managers' index for both sectors rising to 53.5 from 52.6 in January. That beat the median forecast of economists for a reading of 53 and is the highest in seven months.

Among equities moving on corporate news, Danone fell 1.2 percent. The world's biggest yogurt maker set a lower sales forecast for 2015 than last year's amid deflationary pressure in Europe and weakening currencies in emerging markets.

Gemalto NV slid 7.2 percent, for the biggest decline on the Stoxx 600. The largest maker of mobile-phone cards said it's investigating a report that U.S. and U.K. spies allegedly hacked into its computer network to steal the keys used to encrypt conversations, messages and data traffic.

Standard Life Plc climbed 3.2 percent after reporting better-than-expected full-year profit.

Gauge of energy stocks and commodity producers posted the biggest gains of the 19 industry groups on the Stoxx 600, as oil trimmed its first weekly decline in a month. Tullow Oil Plc and Premier Oil Plc rose at least 2.8 percent, while Glencore Plc added 1.9 percent.

FTSE 100 6,911.95 +23.05 +0.33%

CAC 40 4,825.73 -7.55 -0.16%

DAX 10,983.57 -18.37 -0.17%

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