European markets ends festive week at fresh record highs

(Reuters) - European stocks wrapped up a holiday-thinned week at record highs on Friday as growing hopes that a Sino-U.S. trade deal would be inked soon, as well as the latest dose of upbeat China data supported prospects of an improving global growth.

FILE PHOTO: The German share price index DAX graph is pictured at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, December 16, 2019. REUTERS/Staff

The pan-European STOXX 600 index .STOXX gained about 0.2% as investors returned from Christmas and Boxing day holiday to comments from Beijing that it was in close contact with Washington about their initial agreement, shortly after U.S. President Donald Trump talked up a formal signing ceremony.

The benchmark index, up more than 24% so far in 2019, is on course for its best year since the global financial crisis as firming indications of a Phase 1 trade deal and hopes of a smoother Brexit in the final month of the year.

“In 2020, we see a higher level of confidence about (the trade deal and Brexit),” said Chris Bailey, European strategist at Raymond James.

Adding to the upbeat mood was economic data on Friday which showed profits at industrial firms in China rose at the fastest pace in eight months in November.

Among European sectors, financial services index .SXFP, industrial goods & services .SXNP, chemicals .SX4P and health care index .SXDP notched intraday record highs.

Trade-sensitive European miners .SXPP gained 0.7% on Friday.

(GRAPHIC: European stocks in 2019 - )

The export-heavy German stock index .GDAXI climbed 0.3% while UK's blue-chip .FTSE notched its eleventh straight session of gains.

Even with the recent UK general election smoothing the path for Britain’s exit from the European Union, the country’s ability to strike a new trading deal with the EU in a relatively short span of time remains a concern for some investors.

“If we can get Brexit completed in 2020, it will be positive for European and UK equities... but that will be short-lived,” said Simon Calton, chief executive officer of Carlton James Group.

“When ‘Brexit is done’, that is not the end of Brexit, that is just the beginning.”

With no major updates expected this year either on the trade front or on future Brexit negotiations, volumes are expected to remain light until the first full week of January.

Investors will also look to fourth-quarter corporate financial results due next month for clues on companies’ outlook on growth next year.

In a light day for corporate news, Qiagen QIA.DE shares tumbled about 18%, hitting the bottom of STOXX 600 after the genetic testing firm decided against selling the company.

Reporting by Medha Singh in Bengaluru