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Europe: Shares falter as year-end rally fades

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European shares ended the final trading day of the decade with a whimper on Tuesday as investors locked in gains after a record rally fuelled by optimism around trade and easing fears of a global recession.

[BENGALURU] European shares ended the final trading day of the decade with a whimper on Tuesday as investors locked in gains after a record rally fuelled by optimism around trade and easing fears of a global recession.

In a shortened session ahead of the New Year's Eve celebrations, the pan-European Stoxx 600 index closed down 0.1 per cent.

French, British and Spanish stocks lost between 0.1 per cent and 0.7 per cent, while Frankfurt and Milan bourses were shut for the year-end holidays.

Still, the benchmark index clocked its biggest annual gain since the global financial crisis as investor sentiment received a boost in December from a breakthrough in US-China trade negotiations and signs of a smoother Brexit.

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said on Monday a Phase 1 trade deal was likely to be signed in the next week.

Relatively loose monetary policy by the world's most influential central banks and robust economic indicators have also lifted global equities to record highs this month.

Data from China showed manufacturing activity expanded for a second straight month in December, partly on higher seasonal demand.

But with the finer details of the initial China-US trade agreement not yet known, analysts said investors used the last trading day of the year to reposition for 2020.

"While market volumes are predictably light, investors continue to strike a year-end cautionary tone as December optimism is gradually giving way to 2020's uncertainty," Stephen Innes, a market strategist at AxiTrader, wrote in a note.

For European traders, Brexit clouds are gathering again.

Although Britain's exit from the European Union is now almost certain on Jan 31, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's hard line on the country's future trade relationship with the bloc has again fanned fears of a no-deal Brexit.

Investors will also be looking at Germany for concrete signs of economic growth, after Europe's powerhouse teetered on the brink of recession this year.

Despite equities in the country being highly sensitive to trade progress, German shares rose only 0.1 per cent in December, widely underperforming their regional peers.

For the year, the Stoxx 600 rose about 23 per cent, but lagged both the wider MSCI world index and the benchmark S&P 500.

In thin corporate news on the final trading day of the year, French aeronautics group Latecoere gained 2 per cent after agreeing to buy Bombardier's electrical wiring interconnection system business for around US$50 million.

REUTERS