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European shares gain in first week of 2019 but caution persists
[LONDON] European shares closed higher on Friday after hitting one-month highs as investor appetite for assets considered risky remained firm, despite caution over trade and ahead of earnings season.
The pan-European Stoxx 600 ended 0.1 per cent higher on its fourth straight day in the black - its longest winning streak since November.
But Frankfurt, Paris and London all ended in negative territory as enthusiasm over China's trade talks with the United States waned without hard evidence about what was agreed.
Worries about slowing economic growth in China also lingered while Wall Street's gains from a rally on Thursday faltered as Q4 results season kicks off in earnest next week.
"The lack of additional detail in relation to the update (on US-China trade talks) has encouraged some dealers to trim their positions ahead of the weekend," said David Madden, market analyst at CMC Markets UK.
China-sensitive autos and parts suppliers led the falls, down 1 per cent. Valeo dropped 6.4 per cent, the biggest faller on the CAC 40, while Continental and Volkswagen were among the biggest DAX decliners.
Still in the first full trading week of 2019, the Stoxx 600 gained 1.7 per cent as investors regained their appetite for risk boosted by dovish comments from Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell.
Equity funds drew inflows of $6.2 billion, the biggest in 11 weeks, BAML said.
The FTSE 100 erased earlier gains as sterling bounced amid growing expectations that the government may delay its departure from the European Union beyond March 29.
Focus remained on Prime Minister Theresa May's efforts to get her Brexit deal through parliament, with a crucial vote due on Tuesday. A drastic about-turn in crude prices also weighed on heavyweight oil stocks.
In the healthcare sector, downgrades by Jefferies hit UDG Healthcare and Orion Oyj which were the worst individual performers with falls of 7.7 per cent 7.4 per cent respectively.
French utilities took a hit after Societe Generale downgraded ratings on Suez and Veolia Environnement , citing doubts about the global growth outlook.
The stocks were down 2.8 per cent and 2.6 per cent respectively.
The UK's housebuilders were stand-out gainers on the day after BAML upgraded its view on the sector, saying "it seems at least possible, or even probably, that some sort of Brexit resolution is within sight and therefore the UK housebuilding sector may see some relief".
Taylor Wimpey and Persimmon were leading British blue chips, both rising more than 4 per cent.