European Stocks Edge Lower as Caution Prevails Before Holidays

Stoxx 600 Edges Lower as Holidays Approach

European stocks inched lower amid thin trading, with investors signaling reluctance to extend a rally as the last full trading week of 2016 unfolded.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index fell 0.2 percent at the close, on trading volume that was 38 percent lower than the 30-day average. Miners and technology shares fell the most, while travel and energy shares rose. Actelion Ltd. led an advance in health-care shares, up 4.1 percent as it restarted talks with Johnson & Johnson about a possible deal, just a week after ending earlier discussions.

Equities are drifting lower after the Stoxx 600 reached its highest level in almost a year. While Spanish lenders weighed on the benchmark on Wednesday, about 21 percent of the European gauge’s members set new 4-week highs.

  • The Stoxx 600 is 1.6 percent away from wiping out is 2016 decline. Strategists expect the gauge to end 2017 at 366, 1.7 percent higher than Thursday’s close, according to the average of nine estimates compiled by Bloomberg.
  • While analysts see profit at the benchmark’s firms declining 2.2 percent this year, they expect growth of more than 12 percent in 2017.
  • The Euro Stoxx 50 has gained almost thrice as much as the S&P 500 in December, erasing its losses for the year. Optimism about earnings and growth in the region next year puts the gauge on track for its biggest December advance since 1999.
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