U.S. Markets closed

European shares rise on brighter U.S. growth prospects

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 a holiday.

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.

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.

"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 1,290.26 points, while the euro zone blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 rose 0.2 percent to 3,056.36 points.

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.

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 CAD $650 million (447 million euros), as it seeks to expand in North America.