By Shubham Batra and Amruta Khandekar
(Reuters) - European shares hit their highest in over a year on Friday and ended their fourth straight week in the green, buoyed by positive earnings from major U.S. banks and hopes of an end to the Federal Reserve's rate-hiking cycle.
The pan-European STOXX 600 closed up 0.6% on Friday, after hitting its highest level since February 2022 earlier in the session. The index gained 1.7% for the week, clocking its longest weekly winning streak so far in 2023.
The blue-chip STOXX 50 index also advanced 0.6%, hitting a 22-year peak.
European shares have gained momentum in April with France's CAC 40 hitting record highs multiple times in a row, following evidence of cooling U.S. inflation as well as an improving outlook for the euro zone economy.
"April is one of the strongest months of the year (for Europe stocks) so you tend to see strong seasonal inflows. Also, investors have been optimistically pricing in two Fed rate cuts at the second-half of this year and maybe only one more rate hike to come," said Giles Coghlan, chief market analyst at HYCM.
On Friday, European banks were the top gainers on the STOXX 600, jumping 3.0% to hit a one-month high after upbeat first quarter earnings from big banks in the United States, which had been keenly awaited following the recent turmoil in the banking sector.
"So far, we have seen that deposit outflows have been manageable. But any stress there (in the U.S.) could be transferred to Europe, then the European banks may have to diversify their portfolios," said Michael Field, European equity strategist at Morningstar.
Rate-sensitive real-estate stocks gained 1.8%.
Also lifting sentiment was Singapore's central bank's decision to keep its key rates unchanged.
European Central Bank policymakers have been backing more interest rate increases, with ECB President Christine Lagarde saying underlying price pressures, boosted by rapid nominal wage growth, are likely to remain high for some time.
Data showed Germany's wholesale prices rose in March at a slower pace than last month on the year, but rose 0.2%, compared with February.
Among major stock moves, Hermes rose 1.5% to a new record high after the luxury firm's first-quarter sales beat market expectations, helped by strong demand from China.
TomTom jumped 7.3% after the Dutch navigation and digital mapping company reported surprise first-quarter profit.Dechra jumped 33.1%, as the British veterinary pharmaceuticals firm said it had entered into talks with private equity group EQT for a possible offer in a 4.63 billion pound ($5.80 billion) all-cash deal.
(Reporting by Shubham Batra and Amruta Khandekar in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich and Angus MacSwan)