European shares edge higher, supported by improving U.S. growth

Reuters

* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.2 percent

* IMF upgrades U.S. growth view after S&P hits record

* Bureau Veritas buoyed by "reasonable" price of acquisition

By Alistair Smout

LONDON, Dec 23 (Reuters) - European shares edged higher on Monday, extending Friday's gain as investors focused on the brightening prospects for U.S. growth now the U.S. Federal Reserve has started slowing its unprecedented stimulus.

Trade this week is set to be light, with major European markets shut on Wednesday and Thursday for Christmas.

Better-than-expected GDP data from the United States supported gains on the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 on Friday, which closed up 0.5 percent at 1,287.61 points.

"As we head into the holiday period it looks likely that equity markets will continue in a positive frame of mind and edge higher against a background of positive macro data," Darren Sinden, trader at Titan Investment Partners, said.

"However, it remains to be seen if this will be backed up by volume and participation in what is traditionally a very quiet period in the trading calendar."

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 was up 0.2 percent at 1,290.22 points by 0841, with volumes just 7 percent of the 90 day daily average after what is usually one of the busiest parts of the day.

In the latest example of a strengthening growth environment, the International Monetary Fund said on Sunday it predicted the U.S. economy would expand at a faster pace in 2014, supported by positive economic data.

After Friday's European market close, the U.S. blue-chip S&P 500 posted a record closing high, with investors hoping the better growth outlook meant the economy could withstand a slowdown in monetary stimulus.

The FTSEurofirst managed its best week in eight months as the U.S. Federal Reserve's decision to slow its asset purchases while extending its commitment to low interest rates was well received by the market.

"What the market really wants is certainty. For now, with the Fed really laying out what they're planning to do next year, that's helping increase appetite for stocks again," said Markus Huber, senior sales trader at Peregrine & Black.

Top riser on the FTSEurofirst 300 was Bureau Veritas , up 3.3 percent after the French testing and inspection company bought Maxxam Analytics International Corporation, Canada's leading analytical services provider, for about 447 million euros ($611.07 million), as it seeks to expand in North America.

"The price paid looks reasonable," Simon Mezzanotte, analyst at Berenberg, said in a note.

"Maxxam seems like a well established and profitable business; however, operational improvements and hence value creation may be limited."

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