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Europe: Shares suffer worst weekly fall since mid-June

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[LONDON] European stock markets fell on Friday in their worst weekly loss since the middle of June, with storage tank group Vopak slumping after its results while major bank stocks also weakened.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index ended down 0.8 per cent, posting a weekly loss of 1.7 per cent - its worst since mid-June. The index is down 7 per cent so far in 2016.

Uncertainty over a possible near-term interest rate hike in the United States, the world's biggest economy, also weighed on markets. Central bankers from around the world will gather from Aug 25 for an annual meeting at Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

US Federal Reserve Chair Yellen is due to speak the following day, and is likely to cement expectations for a slow pace of rate increases. "Markets have been pricing in a little bit too dovish an outlook," said Accendo Markets' research analyst Augustin Eden.

Vopak, the world's largest independent storage tank operator, was the top faller on the STOXX 600, dropping 7.1 per cent after its first-half results were hit by impairment charges.

Shares in Italian banks, which have faced concerns over their bad debts, also slumped with UniCredit down 6.3 per cent.

European stock markets had recouped losses incurred in the immediate aftermath of June's shock "Brexit" vote for Britain to quit the European Union, but they have since lost ground again on the back of weak earnings and an anaemic economic backdrop.

"The short-term gains seen in global stocks have been undeniably impressive but go against the fundamentals, which does raise questions about the sustainability of the current market rally," said FXTM research analyst Lukman Otunuga.

REUTERS