European shares rose toward five-month highs on Thursday and the euro was steady, despite evidence of weakening activity across the region, as softer Chinese data kept alive talk of further central bank policy easing to tackle declining global growth.
The FTSE Eurofirst 300 index of top European shares opened up 0.3 percent at 1099.66 points, while the euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index, which has risen 12.7 percent in the past two weeks, gained another 0.4 percent.
"Expectations of more coordinated central bank stimulus is one trigger for the (European) summer rally continuing, but markets are also focusing on expectations of growth for next year, and it is hoping for an improvement," said Achim Matzke, European stock indexes analyst at Commerzbank.
Europe's stock markets have rallied sharply since European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said two weeks ago that the central bank was "ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro", triggering hopes of bold measures to help lower the borrowing costs of Spain and Italy.
The demand for shares, oil and precious metals has also been supported by expectations of policy easing from the world's major central banks due to growing evidence that the euro zone's problems have slowed economic activity in the United States and Asia.
China kept those hopes alive on Thursday when it reported annual consumer inflation at a 30-month low of 1.8 percent in July and factory output growth slowing to 9.2 percent in that month, the weakest in just over three years.
The euro was barely changed around $1.2360, still well short of a one-month high of $1.2443 set on Tuesday.
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