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European markets close lower; oil prices soar; Banco Popular shares jump 13%

European markets closed lower on Thursday as investors eyed political developments in Italy and digested the oil-producing cartel OPEC's announcement to cut oil production.


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The Stoxx 600 ended 0.33 percent lower. Almost all stocks were in negative territory however oil and gas stocks outperformed other sectors to close 1.85 percent higher. OPEC countries reached, for the first time in eight years, a deal to cut production on Wednesday.

Brent crude was up 4.4 percent as the European session closed and was trading around $54.14 a barrel while WTI rose 4.07 percent to $51.49 a barrel.

In the U.S., stocks were mixed though the Dow's chances of extending a 7-day winning streak looked increasingly likely after a record-breaking month in November.

Sterling climbs

Data from Nationwide showed that U.K. house prices went up in November. Compared to the same month last year, prices were up by 4.4 percent.

Sterling climbed above $1.13 after David Davis, the U.K.'s Brexit secretary, said the government would assess whether to keep paying into the EU budget to keep its access to the single market.

Banco Popular shares up 13%

Investors continue to be concerned with political uncertainty in Italy ahead of a key referendum on Sunday and its implications for the banking system. The Italian central bank warned Wednesday that the country's top three banks would need to hold further capital against their assets from 2018.

Banco Popular, which is widely regarded as the weak link in Spain's banking sector, announced on Thursday that Chairman Angel Ron is to be replaced after shareholders rebelled against a lackluster clean up of 30 billion euros ($31.9 billion) in toxic assets, according to a Reuters report. Shares closed up 13.6 percent.

The world's biggest shipping company, Maersk, announced it is set to buy smaller rivalHamburg Süd, just over two months after the Danish shipping firm announced plans to bolster its transport operations, Reuters reported. Shares soared over 6.7 percent at the close.

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