EUROPE MARKETS: European Stocks Close Lower, But Head For 8% 2017 Gain

12/28/17 11:55 AM EST

By Sara Sjolin, MarketWatch

Retailer Steinhoff rises, but still heads for 94% yearly loss

European stocks ended lower after a thin trading session on Thursday, with few fresh catalysts to inspire investors to send markets higher in the penultimate trading session of the year.

What are markets doing: The Stoxx Europe 600 index fell 0.3% to close at 389.54, after rising 0.1% on Wednesday. The pan-European index is now on track for an 7.8% year-to-date gain, which would be its biggest yearly advance since 2013. The climb, however, pales in comparison to the U.S., where the major benchmarks are looking at gains between 20% and 30% for 2017.

Read:4 reasons Wall Street banks have the hots for Europe in 2018 (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/4-reasons-wall-street-banks-have-the-hots-for-europe-in-2018-2017-12-20)

Germany's DAX 30 index dropped 0.7% to 12,979.94 on Thursday, while France's CAC 40 index fell 0.6% to 5,339.42.

The U.K.'s FTSE 100 index gained 2.20 points, or 0.03%, to 7,622.88. That meager move was enough to score an all-time closing high (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/ftse-100-wavers-around-record-high-as-miners-march-higher-2017-12-28).

The euro rose to $1.1952 from $1.1889 late Wednesday in New York. The euro strength was largely an effect of a broad-based dollar selloff (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/dollar-index-drops-to-multiweek-lows-after-us-bond-yields-tumble-2017-12-28)that came after U.S. Treasury yields tumbled on Wednesday.

"The final full session of the year has seen European markets drop slightly, with an absence of catalysts prompting a drift to the downside," said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG, in a note.

Some markets, including the U.K.'s bourses, will close early on Friday.

"However, as the big investors cut back on their European exposure, one of the big themes of this year, there will be plenty of opportunities for ordinary investors to pick up bargains and gain exposure to one of the healthier parts of the global economy, assuming they can stomach the potential volatility from various elections," he added.

Stock movers: Shares of Steinhoff International Holdings NV rose 3%, even as Moody's downgraded the embattled retailer to Caa1--near default territory. The company, which owns the Poundland and Mattress Firm retail chains, has plunged 94% year-to-date after an accounting scandal was disclosed earlier this month.

Aegon NV (AGN.AE) gained 0.9% after the Dutch insurer said it would sell part of its U.S. life insurance unit to French insurance company Scor SE (SCRYY).

Shares of Banco BPM SpA (BAMI.MI) rose 2.1% after the Italian lender said it exceeds the capital requirements set by the European Central Bank, which will go into effect in 2018.

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 28, 2017 11:55 ET (16:55 GMT)

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