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Europe shares post average gains of 7% for 2015

European shares closed lower on the day on Thursday, with volumes thin in the last trading session of 2015.

The U.K.'s benchmark FTSE 100 finished down 0.5 percent on the day when it closed early, at midday. The French CAC closed down by 0.9 percent, while Spain's IBEX posted slightly steeper losses, finishing 1.1 percent down.

German, Italian, Irish, Swiss and Russian markets were closed for New Year's Eve.

European Markets: FTSE, GDAXI, FCHI, IBEX

The pan-European benchmark STOXX 600 ended the year up by 6.9 percent. Sentiment on euro zone stocks was boosted by the massive asset-buying program launched by the European Central Bank (ECB) in March.

The CAC has gained 8.5 percent since January and the German DAX, which had its last trading day on Wednesday, finished 9.5 percent higher on the year.

Without the benefits of the ECB's stimulus, the FTSE 100 closed lower on the year, down by 4.9 percent. Its underperformance was largely driven by the heavy weighting of commodity companies in the index.

Commodity producers were the biggest laggards among European stocks, with Anglo American shares down 75 percent and shares of Glencore down by 70 percent. Shares of oil exploration firm, Seadrill, were down 65 percent.

Still, there were some bright spots on the FTSE. Investment and holdings group, DCC, ending up 59.5 percent for the year, while both property firm, Berkeley Group, and financial services firm, Hargreaves Landsdown, closed over 48 percent higher.

They failed to match the gains of Fingerprint Cards, the top-performing stock on the STOXX 600, however. Stock of the Swedish biometric tech firm has gained a staggering 1,598 percent since January.

Danish biotech company Genmab was the next biggest gainer, up 154 percent for the year.

No major earnings were announced on Thursday. Instead, all eyes were on oil prices, which fell further after a volatile session overnight that saw losses of over 3 percent. Prices for both U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude and Brent crude slipped towards $36 per barrel.

Sports Direct finished the session near the top of the FTSE 100, up 1.3 percent after the company said it would shell out around £10 billion ($15 billion) per year to pay U.K. employees above the minimum wage. The company has faced allegations of underpaying workers and poor working conditions.

Shares of BP shook off the news that a fierce storm in the North Sea had forced it to evacuate staff from its Valhall platform.

Similarly, U.K. bank stocks were little moved by the scrapping of a watchdog review of Britain's banking culture, just a few months after its launch. The news was taken as further evidence that the years of "banking bashing" were ending in the U.K.

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