European Shares Fluctuate in Thin Trading, Lack of Catalysts

  • Stoxx 600 swings between 0.8% gain, 0.5% loss before holiday
  • Energy companies among best performers as crude advances

European equities ended little changed after swinging between gains and losses amid sparse trading and a lack of catalysts as the Christmas holiday nears.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index dropped 0.1 percent to 356.87 at the close, after earlier rising as much as 0.8 percent and falling 0.5 percent. The volume of shares traded was 33 percent lower than the 30-day average. The equity benchmark is down 7.4 percent this month and is heading for its worst December since 2002.

“The market is lacking confidence because there’s nothing really out there that can give investors any reason to be confident,” said Carsten Hilck, who manages $7.2 billion at Union Investment in Frankfurt. “Liquidity is fading as we go into year end, there’s no catalyst to move the market higher. It’s getting very quiet and the market is pretty much on its own now.”

Oil-and-gas companies were among the best performers of the 19 industry groups on the Stoxx 600, with BG Group Plc and BP Plc contributing the most to the advance, as crude climbed. Rio Tinto Group and Glencore Plc pushed commodity producers higher with gains of at least 1.9 percent. 

Credit Agricole SA led banks ahead, rising 2.4 percent after the French lender said it’s well above the minimum capital levels that will be required by the European Central Bank starting next month. Natixis SA added 1.9 percent after saying that one capital-ratio measure already exceeds the minimum stipulation.

EON SE and RWE AG declined, helping drag a measure of utilities to one of the worst performances on the Stoxx 600, as the mild weather reduces German power demand and depresses prices.

Spain’s IBEX 35 Index rose 0.5 percent, after earlier rebounding as much as 1 percent. Shares tumbled 3.6 percent yesterday, the most since August, after the inconclusive weekend election. The Socialists’ opposition to a new term for Prime Minister Mariano has Rajoy set the scene for drawn-out negotiations over the shape of the next administration.

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