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Europe: Shares close lower as US dollar strength hits miners

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[MILAN] European equities ended lower on Friday, with mining and energy stocks bearing the brunt of the sell off after commodities prices slipped following a rally in the US dollar.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed 0.4 per cent lower after rising earlier in the session to a one-week high. However, the index finished for a second straight week in positive territory, helped by a pledge by US President-elect Donald Trump to boost infrastructure spending.

Italian stocks, down 1.8 per cent, underperformed the broader stock market after banks hit six-week lows, hurt by the prospect of a referendum vote on Dec 4 that could topple Matteo Renzi's reformist government.

"The constitutional referendum in Italy on 4 December is another overhang that needs to be navigated first," Berenberg said in a note. "And, should a No vote prevail, this would add further uncertainty to the political situation, putting more pressure on the banks and potentially making it more difficult for them to raise capital."

Recent polls suggest Italians may reject Mr Renzi's proposed constitutional reform and he has pledged to resign if he loses. Markets fear political instability could stall Italy's efforts to reform its banks, which have a combined 356 billion euros (S$539.1 billion) in soured loans left by a deep recession.

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Italy's banking sector index fell 2.5 per cent to its lowest level since Oct 5, weighed down by losses between 0.9 per cent and 5.2 per cent in Banco Popolare, UniCredit and Intesa Sanpaolo.

Europe's basic resources index, which includes big London-listed miners, was the biggest sectoral loser, down 1.9 per cent, following gains in the previous session. Precious metals miners also lost ground after prices of gold fell on currency moves.

While Trump's infrastructure plans could boost demand for metals, their prices, which are denominated in US dollars, have been hit by the surge in the US currency.

Shares in Anglo American, Rio Tinto, Antofagasta, Fresnillo and Randgold Resources fell 2.9 to 6.9 per cent.

Investors have turned more cautious in assessing the possible impact of Trump for European equities.

The Stoxx 600 has risen more than 1 per cent since Mr Trump's win, as expectations of fiscal stimulus under his administration propelled cyclical stocks, but falls in income stocks such as utilities have meant the index remains within the tight range it has been moving in for the past 16 weeks.

In the construction sector, LafargeHolcim rose 2.4 per cent after the building materials giant cut its mid-term profit outlook but sweetened the pill by saying it planned an improved payout for shareholders as well as 1 billion Swiss francs worth of share buybacks.

Nibe Industrier was the biggest gainer on the Stoxx 600 index, up 4.6 per cent, after Kepler Cheuvreux raised its price target on the heat pump maker.


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