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European shares cautiously dip ahead of G20 meeting

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[LONDON] Weakened in morning trading by poor data from China, European shares closed lower on Friday ahead of Saturday's crucial G20 talks between US President Trump and China's Xi Jinping over trade.

The pan-European STOXX 600 ended the session down 0.3 per cent and on a 1.2 per cent loss over the month after a disappointing earnings season.

Germany's DAX, the most sensitive to China due to its big exporters, fell 0.4 per cent.

German blue chip companies posted their fourth straight month of losses, with a 1.6 per cent dip in November - the longest losing streak since 2008.

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Investors' hopes of a partial recovery in stock markets in December - known as a "Santa rally" - hang on the leaders' discussions resulting in a truce or de-escalation of the US-China trade war.

"There are only two people in the world that can deliver a Santa rally, Trump and Xi, and I don't see that happening," said Peter Garnry, head of equity strategy at Saxo Bank in Copenhagen.

Mr Garnry saw a 60 to 65 per cent chance of the Trump-Xi talks resulting in "no deal".

China reported its weakest factory growth in more than two years on Friday, reigniting fears about growth ahead of crucial trade talks.

"The weak data out of China is increasingly a little bit of a surprise. Most investors would have anticipated that at least some of that stimulus six months ago would have had an impact, but this really tells us how big the headwinds are," said Mr Garnry.

Autos stocks lost 1 per cent, on the data and anxiety over tariffs.

German car bosses are finalising plans to visit the White House next week to discuss trade policy, German and US officials said.

"The problem with Europe is that ... quite a lot of our industrial supply chain and capital goods manufacturers have at least some exposure to the autos sector, so you can't get away from it," said Ian Ormiston, European smaller companies fund manager at Merian Global Investors.

Mining stocks fell 0.9 per cent, hit by growth fears over China, the world's top metals consumer.

Among the biggest drags on the STOXX were also luxury goods conglomerates Kering and LVMH, down 1.2 per cent and 1.5 per cent respectively. Luxury stocks have been especially sensitive to slowing growth in China, high-end brands' biggest market.

Zalando fell 4.4 per cent after Kepler Cheuvreux cut its price target on the stock, saying it has become more sceptical about the long-term potential for margins at the online retailer.

REUTERS