LONDON (Reuters) - European stocks rose for a second day on Thursday as investors brushed off a spike in U.S. inflation, turning their focus back to company earnings from heavy hitters including Europe's largest aerospace firm Airbus (>> Airbus SE).
The pan-European STOXX 600 <.STOXX> ended up 0.5 percent at its highest level in a week, though the main European stock index was still down 6.7 percent from a 2-1/2-year peak hit as recently as Jan. 23.
Cyclical sectors drove the market higher, with basic resources, industrials, banks and technology stocks the best performers, recovering from their sharp drop last week.
The rapid recovery from a higher-than-expected rise in U.S. inflation reported on Wednesday took some by surprise, and investors said the bounceback indicated underlying strength in the market.
"For me it's a clear indication that inflation is not as big a threat as people made it out to be over the past couple of weeks," said Lukas Daalder, chief investment officer at Robeco in Rotterdam.
"The trend behind the market is still very strongly pointed upwards," Daalder added. "2017 was a very momentum-driven market, and if that's still the case, which after yesterday it appears to be, then we will probably see new highs before too long."
Earnings took centre stage with strong results driving the top gainers Airbus, Ipsen (>> Ipsen), Aegon (>> Aegon), and Schneider Electric (>> Schneider Electric SE).
Airbus shares jumped 10.3 percent after Europe's largest aerospace firm beat profit and earnings expectations, though it booked a new 1.3 billion euro charge on its A400M military plane.
Schneider Electric rose 3.4 percent after the electrical equipment producer reported a strong profit margin despite headwinds from the rise in the euro.
Dutch insurer Aegon (>> Aegon) gained 2.8 percent after the company reported a doubling of quarterly net income and raised estimates for future earnings, thanks to a tax cut in the United States where it does around 60 percent of its business.
Insurer NN Group (>> NN Group) by contrast fell 1.7 percent after profit undershot analysts' expectations.
Another notable faller was Nestle (>> Nestlé), whose shares hit a 10-month low, down 2.1 percent, after reporting last year's organic or underlying growth was the weakest since it began recording the measure in 1996.
Overall, fourth-quarter earnings from European companies are expected to increase 14.6 percent from the previous year, Thomson Reuters data showed.
"Earnings estimates have also been raised, so that's definitely one of the supporting factors of the rally," said Robeco's Daalder.
Meanwhile banking and insurance firm Old Mutual (>> Old Mutual), and mining company Anglo American (>> Anglo American), rose after President Jacob Zuma resigned in South Africa, sending the rand to near three-year highs.
Both firms derive a high proportion of their revenue in South Africa, whose parliament was set to confirm Cyril Ramaphosa as president later on Thursday.
Germany-listed shares in South African retailer Steinhoff <SNHG.DE> rose 4.4 percent after the firm, embroiled in an accounting scandal, said it would hold its annual shareholders' meeting on April 20.
Still in Germany, utility Innogy (>> innogy SE) fell 3 percent after a report saying the German energy group would earn up to 400 million euros less in annual pretax profit. Innogy dismissed the report, confirming its outlook for this year.
Shares in Innogy's parent company RWE (>> RWE) fell 2.4 percent.
(Additional reporting by Danilo Masoni; Editing by Alison Williams and David Holmes)
By Helen Reid
Stocks treated in this article : Airbus SE
, Schneider Electric SE
, Anglo American
, Old Mutual
, NN Group
, Standard Life Aberdeen
, innogy SE
, Steinhoff Africa Retail Ltd