European shares end higher as focus shifts to cenbank meetings

German share price index DAX graph is pictured at the stock exchange in Frankfurt

By Ankika Biswas and Amruta Khandekar

(Reuters) - European shares ended higher on Friday as investors assessed mixed earnings from the region, while easing inflation in the United States bolstered sentiment ahead of a week of major central bank decisions.

The pan-European STOXX 600 climbed for the second straight day, adding 0.2%, and posted weekly gains.

H&M fell 4% as the world's second-biggest fashion retailer reported a much larger-than-expected drop in operating profit for the September-to-November period.

Remy Cointreau slipped 3.7% after the French spirits maker posted lower third-quarter sales.

"The earnings angle is a mixed bag. Some corporates appear to show earnings holding up, while others are reporting disappointing numbers," Stuart Cole, head macro economist at Equiti Capital in London, said.

On a brighter note, shares of luxury firms such as Compagnie Financiere Richemont SA and Moncler SpA rose between 1% and 2.4% after LVMH posted forecast-beating quarterly sales on strong U.S and European demand.

The upcoming week is marked by monetary policy decisions from prominent central banks, including the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank (ECB).

Data on Friday showing a fall in consumer spending and further easing in inflationary pressures in the United States bolstered hopes of a 25-basis-point rate hike from the Fed next week, with traders betting the central bank would end its hiking campaign in March.

"With the Fed so far showing no signs that it is prepared to consider easing the tightening in policy being applied, only that the pace it is applied at may slow, a quarter of flat, or even negative growth, in Q1 is looking increasingly likely," Cole said.

The STOXX 600 has rallied around 7% this month boosted by hopes that major central banks would slow their aggressive interest rate hike campaigns.

Among major STOXX 600 sectors on Friday, energy and consumer discretionary firms were a big boost, while weakness in consumer staples stocks such as Diageo limited gains on the index.

Rate-sensitive banks rose 0.6% with Europe's top lenders such as Italy's UniCredit to report results in the coming days.

Italy's banking-heavy stock index rose 0.8% to hit a near one-year high.

Earnings for STOXX 600 companies are expected to have increased 9.5% on an annual basis in the fourth quarter, down from 14.5% seen at the start of January, Refinitiv data showed.

Among other stocks, SSAB gained 10% as the Swedish steelmaker announced higher dividend and proposed stock buyback.

Signify advanced 5.6% after the world's largest lighting maker gave a more upbeat forecast for operating profitability for 2023.

(Reporting by Ankika Biswas and Amruta Khandekar in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V, Vinay Dwivedi and Andrew Heavens)