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European shares set for best year since 2013

Written by Business World, on 29th Dec 2017. Posted in EU

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 European stocks steadied on Friday, the final trading day of 2017, and were set to record their strongest year of gains since 2013 thanks to a surge among tech stocks and a robust resources sector.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index was down 0.1% in thin volumes on the day, while euro zone blue chips declined 0.2%.

Britain's FTSE 100 hit a new record and was 0.2% higher in a half-day of trading for the index, while Italian equities declined 0.4% after the president dissolved parliament on Thursday and an election day was scheduled for March 4.

Overall 2017 has been a positive year for European stocks, fuelled by strong company earnings, a supportive economic backdrop and an absence of major political upsets.

The STOXX is set to end 2017 with a gain of 7.7%, its strongest year since 2013. Germany and Italy's benchmarks have been standout performers, rising 12.8% and 14.5% respectively this year.

Periphery markets have also had a strong year, with Greece's benchmark up 23.5% while Portugal has gained 14.7%.

Britain's FTSE 100 has lagged slightly, rising 7% in 2017, as has Spain's IBEX, which is up 7.6% as the crisis in Catalonia curbed enthusiasm for Spanish equities in the latter part of the year.

Brexit uncertainty has dented sentiment towards UK equities, while a recovering pound has also put pressure on the blue chips' large proportion of overseas earners.

Looking ahead to 2018, investors remain upbeat about the region's stock market although there are concerns that a further rise in the euro could erode earnings and political risks could slow the economy.

“Brexit is going to be very much the same story as last year ... that’s just going to weigh constantly on the markets,” Jasper Reimers, senior analyst at Vertex Capital, said.

Among sectors, this year has been dominated by a near-20% rise among Europe's tech stocks, closely followed by basic resources. Chipmaker AMS has been the top-gaining firm on the STOXX, surging 208% in 2017.

Telecoms, retail and media have brought up the rear, with year-to-date losses ranging between 2.4 to 3.7%.

Furniture retailer Steinhoff is the worst-performing individual stock this year, down 93.6% in 2017 after its CEO resigned amid an accounting probe. (Reuters)

Source: www.businessworld.ie

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