European stocks ended higher on Tuesday, led by buoyant defensive shares, but lacklustre trading volumes and nagging fears of contagion from the Greek debt turmoil signalled the rebound could be short-lived, Reuters reported.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares provisionally ended 1.9 percent higher at 933.63 points, with volumes representing only about 70 percent of the index's 90-day daily average.
Big-dividend paying defensive stocks paced the gains, with Deutsche Telekom up 4.3 percent, Sanofi up 3.4 percent and E.ON up 4 percent.
Investors, however, were rattled by Standard & Poor's downgrade of Italy's credit rating. Shares of French lenders, which have a big exposure to Italy, took a renewed beating, with Societe Generale losing 2.4 percent and BNP Paribas dropping 6.3 percent.
"Fund managers aren't buying at the moment. They are tweaking their portfolios and seeking protection by using index futures. That's where the volume is," David Thebault, head of quantitative sales trading at Paris-based broker Global Equities, said.