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European Markets Slightly Higher Buoyed by Unilever

European shares inched up on Thursday as upbeat results from Unilever lifted blue chip consumer staples stocks and helped counterbalance weakness in the energy sector. The pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 0.3 percent.

London's FTSE 100 fell 0.1 percent. France's CAC 40 outperformed peers, climbing 0.6 percent with lenders BNP Paribas and Societe Generale among top advancers, higher by 2.9 percent and 1.9 percent respectively.

Banks were the top sectoral advancers for the second straight session, higher by 0.6 percent. UBS recently improved European banks from 'underweight' to 'neutral', indicating increasing inflation expectations and a favorable regulatory environment.

Unilever helped lift UK and European benchmarks, after the consumer sector reported better-than-expected first-quarter sales, helped by price hikes. Advances made by Unilever bolstered the personal and household goods sector, which increased 0.4 percent.

Energy stocks were in negative territory, following a sharp drop in oil prices overnight. Lundin Petroleum and Tullow Oil were among the top decliners in the sector.

Shares of Nestle were up 0.7 percent after it kept a modest 2-4 percent growth target for underlying sales, a tad lower compared to Unilever's. Spanish infrastructure firm Abertis jumped 3.3 percent, which makes it among top European gainers, as the market considered Italian company Atlantia's plan for a potential takeover.
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