Tech gains, strong earnings power European stocks to new highs



* STOXX 600 hits all-time highs for third straight day

* IMCD, SES lead gains on strong earnings

* Commerzbank slides after swing to loss (Updates to market close)

By Sruthi Shankar and Ambar Warrick

Aug 4 (Reuters) - European shares ended at fresh highs on Wednesday with technology stocks hitting a 20-year peak, while optimism over the second-quarter earnings season continued to feed into positive sentiment.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index .STOXX rose 0.6% to a record high of 468.22 points, extending its record-setting run to a third day.

Technology stocks .SX8P were the best performers for the day, surging 1.9% to levels last seen during the dot-com bubble.

Recent buying into the sector has been driven by a rise in cases of the Delta coronavirus variant in Europe, given technology's resilience to disruptions caused by the virus.

Strong second-quarter earnings also pointed towards improving economic conditions, as COVID-19 vaccinations picked up pace across the continent.

Analysts now expect STOXX 600 companies to post a record 139.6% jump in second-quarter profits versus a year ago, according to Refinitiv IBES data.

Dutch chemicals firm IMCD IMCD.AS and satellite maker SES SESFd.PA were the top performers on the STOXX 600, rising 10.5% and 9.9%, respectively, on strong results.

Coffee company JDE Peet's JDEP.AS jumped 2.4% after reporting a better-than-expected operating profit for the first half of 2021.

"Earnings are coming out really strong and that is giving equity investors some comfort," said Andrea Cicione, head of strategy at TS Lombard.

"The other thing that could give investors a rush of bullishness could be the fact that, if you look at the UK, new cases of COVID-19 are falling quite sharply. That gives you a hope that the same should happen in rest of Europe as well."

A survey showed euro zone business activity raced ahead in July, expanding at its fastest pace in 15 years, as the lifting of more restrictions and an accelerated vaccine drive injected life into the bloc's dominant service industry.

However, supply chain disruptions and labour shortages meant input prices surged at the fastest rate in more than two decades.

Germany's Commerzbank CBKG.DE fell 5.8% and was among the worst performers on the STOXX 600, after it swung to a second-quarter loss following a write-off to end an outsourcing project and as the lender undergoes a major restructuring.

Siemens Energy ENR1n.DE rose more than 2% as it cranked up the pressure on its Spanish-listed wind turbine division Siemens Gamesa SGREN.MC after it was forced to slash its profit outlook because of the unit.

Swiss drugmaker Roche ROG.S inched up 0.4% after Bloomberg reported that SoftBank had built a $5 billion stake in the company.



European earnings growth vs world stocks Link



Reporting by Sruthi Shankar and Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru;
Editing by Kirsten Donovan, Sriraj Kalluvila, Subhranshu Sahu
and Paul Simao

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