RTTNews - The European markets rose for the second day on Friday, as some banking stocks rallied and data gave further cause for optimism the U.S. recession was easing.

U.S. consumer confidence rose in early May to its strongest since the September failure of Lehman Brothers. The Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers said its preliminary index rose to 67.9 from 65.1 in April, above economists' median expectation of a reading of 67.0.

The Federal Reserve said in its report that industrial production fell 0.5% in April following a revised 1.7% decrease in March. Economists had been expecting production to fall 0.6% compared to the 1.5% decrease originally reported for the previous month.

The Labor Department said its consumer price index was unchanged in April after edging down by an unrevised 0.1% in March. The lack of growth in consumer prices came in line with the expectations of economists.

The core consumer price index, which excludes food and energy prices, rose 0.3% in April after rising 0.2% in each of the three previous months. Economists had expected core prices to edge up 0.1%.

Meanwhile, flash estimate released by Eurostat, the Statistical Office of the European Communities, said the euro area GDP declined 2.5% sequentially in the first quarter of 2009 compared to a 1.6% decline in the fourth quarter. Economists were looking for a 2% fall in the first quarter. The first quarter decline was the largest since 1995.

Crude for June delivery fell $0.47 to $58.15 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, by the time the European markets closed.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index of pan-European blue chips closed 0.51% higher at 839.94 points, while the narrower DJ Stoxx 50 index rose 0.26% to 2,055.03 points.

Around Europe, France's CAC 40 index rose 0.40% to 3,169.05, while the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index fell 0.33% to 4,348.11 and Germany's DAX index declined 0.02% to 4,737.50.

Barclays, Britain's third largest bank, climbed 5.8% on news that the company is in talks to sell its asset management unit, Barclays Global Investors, to potential buyers, including BlackRock Inc. and Bank of New York Mellon Corp.

Fortis rallied 12% after the company reported a first quarter net profit despite a negative impact on its investment portfolio, and said inflows held up in April and early May.

Italian bank Intesa Sanpaolo surged up 7.4% after Cheuvreux upgraded the stock to outperform from underperform, while both Credit Suisse and Exane BNP Paribas raised their target prices.

Deutsche Bank, Germany's biggest lender, and Societe Generale, France's third biggest, gained 3.7% and 2.6%, respectively.

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