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Europe: Shares inch up as fund managers advance; FTSE outperforms

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[LONDON] European stock markets made minor gains on Monday as a rise in the shares of fund management companies in the wake of a large merger in the sector propped up markets.

Nevertheless, lingering concerns over Deutsche Bank still weighed on the minds of some investors.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 index ended up 0.1 per cent, although the index remained down by around 6 per cent since the start of 2016.

Britain's FTSE 100 rose 1.2 per cent to a 16-month high, helped by a drop in sterling, as a weaker pound typically benefits the FTSE's export-driven, internationally focused companies. The currency slid towards a three-decade low after Prime Minister Theresa May set a March deadline for the formal process of departure from the European Union to begin.

Shares in fund management companies rose after Britain's Henderson Global Investors agreed to an all-share US$6 billion merger with Janus Capital.

Henderson shares surged 16.7 per cent, while rivals such as Aberdeen Asset Management, Jupiter and Schroders rose 5 per cent, 6 per cent and 2.7 per cent respectively.

"Given the increased scale, this deal may kick off a round of merger speculation involving other asset managers such as Jupiter," Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Keith Baird said.

Although Deutsche Bank's main German-listed shares were not trading due to a public holiday, its US-listed shares fell 2.2 per cent with the company's woes remaining at the forefront for many investors.

Deutsche Bank is throwing its energies into reaching a settlement before next month's presidential election with US authorities demanding a fine of up to US$14 billion for mis-selling mortgage-backed securities.

City of London Markets Limited trader Markus Huber said some traders were encouraged by signs that Deutsche Bank - whose shares closed up 6.4 per cent in Frankfurt on Friday - could agree on a fine far less than US$14 billion.

Analysts at JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley have forecast Deutsche could settle the case for US$5.4-US$6 billion.

However, other traders said Deutsche shares would remain under pressure while there was no deal. Deutsche Bank is still down around 50 per cent since the start of 2016 while the Stoxx Europe 600 bank index is down 20 per cent.

"The European banking system is clearly going through tough times, with high levels of non-performing loans, squeezed margins due to negative interest rates, tougher regulations, weak economic growth and competition with the fintech industry booming," said FXTM chief market strategist Hussein Sayed.

Among the biggest losers in the sector on Monday were Italy's Intesa Sanpaolo and UniCredit, both down around 2 per cent.

Shares in Temenos, a Swiss firm which sells software for financial services, soared 10 per cent to a record high after the company said it had received an order from a major European bank.

REUTERS