European shares steady, Greece deal still expected

Fri Nov 23, 2012 7:42am EST

* Volumes light; U.S. markets shut for half day

* EADS falls on German-French stake plan report

By Tricia Wright

LONDON, Nov 23 (Reuters) - European stocks steadied on Friday after reaching a two-week high in the previous session on investor expectation that an aid deal will be reached for debt-stricken Greece.

The FTSEurofirst 300 was trading flat at 1,103.38 by 1207 GMT, having oscillated around Thursday's closing level during the course of the morning.

Volume on the FTSEurofirst 300 stood at just 22 percent of its 90-day daily average, and is expected to remain relatively subdued on Friday given the half-day closure of U.S. markets post Thanksgiving.

"With the volumes low as they are at the moment, and the fact that the U.S... has a very short trading day today, I wouldn't expect to see much more upside in equity markets today," Brenda Kelly, analyst at IG, said.

Not even robust German business sentiment figures managed to jolt the index significantly higher on Friday, although the market has seen strong gains in the run-up to the data release.

The FTSEurofirst 300, which climbed to a two-week high on Thursday, is up 3.4 percent so far this week, set to record its best weekly performance since early February.

Equity investors were betting on a Greek deal on Monday when the country's international creditors hold more talks.

A senior Greek government official said on Friday that Greece's international lenders have agreed on new measures to cut its debt pile further but it still has to fill a 10 billion euros gap to gain the IMF's approval.

SANTA RALLY?

Question marks remained, however, over whether the market will manage to end the year on a high note as has almost become a tradition, with negotiations to avert the U.S. 'fiscal cliff' of spending cuts and tax rises ongoing.

The FTSEurofirst 300 has notched up a monthly gain in December 12 times in the last 15 years.

"December is normally pretty good, so you've got that in your favour, but I do think this fiscal situation in the U.S. could take the edge off that," Lucy MacDonald, CIO Global Equities at Allianz Global Investors, which has around 300 billion euros ($386.6 billion) of assets under management.

"At the same time we've also got, in Europe, clearly all the discussion about fiscal union, about political union, so we've got a slightly different political environment than we normally have of a December."

Allianz Global Investors, which has a relatively neutral stance on equities, would look to buy on weakness.

In a day otherwise light in terms of corporate newsflow, EADS fell 1.5 percent to near the bottom of the FTSEurofirst 300 on a German newspaper report saying Germany plans to buy a 3 percent stake in the Airbus parent from France.

That means Germany will acquire only 1.5 percent of EADS shares from Daimler, fewer than expected.

"Daimler would then have to sell shares on the market. That is weighing on the share price because that would be a big package," a trader said.

Trading volume in EADS was robust, at 71 percent of its 90-day daily average.

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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