LONDON -- European equity markets have started the second half of the year on positive footing, with Friday's optimism over the EU summit continuing to surface, helped further after better-than-expected European factory output data was released this morning.

That said, gains are perhaps more subdued than would otherwise be the case, as somewhat disappointing manufacturing data from China and Japan overnight tainted the outlook, while mixed commodity trading and an anemic euro cast a faint shadow. The French CAC 40 (INDEX: ^FCHI) has been leading gains across the major European indexes, up around 1.6%.

As has been the case over the last week, in many ways the banking and financial sector is leading direction in Europe today, as hopes that the EU will be able to limit the damage of the sovereign-debt crisis bring about renewed risk appetite and some cautious gains.

France's Credit Agricole (NASDAQOTH: CRARY.PK) is one of the best-performing stocks in the sector, up more than 8% after the National Bank of Greece said it was discussing future strategic alliances with the company and while Credit Agricole announced that it is in talks with brokers as it considers exiting its unprofitable CA Cheuvreux unit.

The industrial and manufacturing majors are also seeing decent performances this morning following the better-than-expected factory output data and a broader sweep of renewed confidence in the eurozone, with the German DAX reaching seven-week highs largely on the back of these gains. HeidelbergCement (NASDAQOTH: HDELY.PK) has been heading up the charge, holding around 2.2% higher.

Drinks-maker Anheuser-Busch InBev (NYSE: BUD) has been putting in a strong performance in Belgium this morning as the ongoing talks surrounding a deal between Anheuser-Busch and Mexico's Grupo Modelo, maker of Corona, continue to develop after the world's largest wine maker, Constellation, bought out sole U.S. distribution rights for Corona Extra in a deal worth $1.85 billion last week.

Elsewhere, weekend news from the U.S. that first-quarter hiring of temporary workers increased year over year, while staffing-firm revenue increased over the same period, has been helping the large recruitment houses in Europe as well.

The news not only improves the outlook for the industry, but more broadly is a positive sign of recovery as temporary workers have traditionally been "first in, first out" when companies undergo expansion or contraction. In Europe, Randstad Holding (NASDAQOTH: RANJY.PK) is leading the sector, up almost 1.5%.

As always, this morning's European news saw some winners and losers -- and perhaps some European buying opportunities. Indeed, legendary investor Warren Buffett has recently spent more than $1 billion buying the stock of a prominent European large cap.

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Karl does not own any share mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.