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European shares inch up early in shortened session

Tuesday, 31 Dec 2013 | 3:20 AM ET

PARIS, Dec 31 (Reuters) - European shares inched higher early in a shortened session on Tuesday before the New Year break, with pan-European indexes set to post their biggest annual gains since 2009.

At 0804 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was up 0.13 percent at 1,313.52 points while the euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index was up 0.06 percent at 3,102.85 points.

That put the two benchmarks on course for gains of about 16 percent and 18 percent respectively for 2013, their best year since 2009, after signs of economic recovery coupled with a long run of cheap central bank money fuelled a revival for stock markets.

"Gains have been pretty solid, but compared with Wall Street which is trading at record highs, Europe still has a nice catch-up rally just to go back to 2007 levels," a Paris-based equity and exchange-traded fund (ETF) trader said.

Many European stock markets including Germany, Italy and Switzerland have already closed for the year, while bourses in London, Madrid, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels and Lisbon will close around midday on Tuesday.