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LONDON: European shares hit record highs on Wednesday and were on track for their longest winning streak in two months, as an upbeat earnings season reinforced optimism about the region’s economic recovery.

The STOXX 600 index inched up 0.1% to hit an all-time high for an eighth consecutive session, with gains in retailers overshadowing declines in travel and leisure stocks.

Globally, markets traded in tight ranges ahead the release of US consumer prices data, which could offer hints on whether the Federal Reserve will start tapering its massive asset purchases programme earlier than expected.

While worries about tighter monetary policy and a surge in the Delta variant of COVID-19, particularly in Asia and the United States, have weighed on global stocks, European equities have eked out record highs recently.

“The fact that the EU has overtaken the US with a vaccination rate of ~70% seems to have been missed by markets,” Sean Darby, global equity strategist at Jefferies said in a morning note.

“A closer inspection of the data suggests that the Delta variant is not necessarily inhibiting demand, while consumer confidence has proved resilient.”

In earnings, Dutch bank ABN Amro gained 2.8% after it said it would resume dividend payments as an economic recovery helped a stronger-than-expected bounce in net profit.

Analysts are predicting a record 148.1% jump in second-quarter profit for companies listed on the STOXX 600, as per Refintiv IBES data, versus a 104.3% rise forecast at the start of the earnings season.

UK cybersecurity company Avast climbed 3.3% after US rival NortonLifeLock Inc agreed to buy the company for up to $8.6 billion. The world’s largest maker of wind turbines, Vestas Wind Systems, slipped 1.3% as it cut its 2021 outlook after missing second-quarter operating profit forecasts on supply chain disruptions and higher costs.

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