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Europe: Shares slip back to 2016 levels as Wall Street support evaporates

[MILAN] European shares fell on Thursday as the impact of a record bounce on Wall Street proved short-lived amid persistent worries about a slowing global economy and a trade spat between Washington and Beijing.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 index fell 1.75 per cent to its lowest level since November 2016. It had risen as much as 0.5 per cent in early trading but fell back into negative territory after about an hour.

By the close in Europe, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had given up over a quarter of its more than 1,000-point gain of the previous session, after data showed consumer confidence in December fell to its lowest level since July.

"There is little visibility," said Oddo Securities trader Mikael Jacoby, citing the recent negative newsflow and weak data.

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"To call for a bottom, we need at least a couple of days of strength, not just in price, but also in trading volume, breadth of the market, and a fundamentally supported environment," also said FXTM strategist Hussein Sayed.

"So far we don't see a shift in fundamentals. Trade tensions between the US and China remains the biggest unknown factor for 2019," he added.

Data earlier showed earnings at China's industrial firms in November dropped for the first time in nearly three years, pointing to a further loss of economic momentum.

All sectors and national indexes in Europe were in the red, with thin holiday volumes helping to make trading more volatile.

The euro zone's volatility gauge was up to its highest levels since markets sustained a correction last February.

The Stoxx 600 benchmark remains set for its worst year since 2008, having fallen 15.3 per cent in the year to date.

Germany's DAX index, whose big exposure to China has made it particularly vulnerable to trade jitters, is down 19.6 per cent this year, while Italy's FTSE MIB, weighed down by concerns over the country's public finances, is down 17.3 per cent. The Brexit-hit FTSE is down 14.5 per cent.

Italian banks fell 1.13 per cent, coming under fresh pressure after the top shareholder at Banca Carige put the troubled lender's future into question by blocking a 400 million euro new share issue.

Elsewhere, shares in Vinci rose 0.2 per cent after the French construction group said it was buying a majority stake in London's Gatwick airport for about 2.9 billion pounds (S$5 billion). Its shares pared gains to trade up 0.3 per cent.

Among smaller companies. Earthport more than trebled its value, jumping 279 per cent after Visa said it would pay 198 million pounds to buy the British payments firm.