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European markets end lower in light holiday trade; FTSE ends at record closing high

Markets in Europe ended lower Thursday in light holiday trading ahead of the New Year.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed down 0.4 percent with the banking and the auto sectors leading declines. Britain's FTSE 100 ended at record closing high of 7109 points. Germany's DAX closed down 0.3 percent and the CAC in France closed down 0.3 percent.

Wall Street stocks fell Thursday after opening higher but there was little hope of the Dow Jones industrial average hitting the elusive 20,000 mark.

Leading the banking sector lower was Credit Suisse. The Swiss bank's shares were down by more than 3.5 percent after media reports that U.S. authorities were investigating the sale of a bond to Mozambique, which instead of being used for tuna fishing has reportedly been used to buy military equipment.

In Italy, economy minister Pier Carlo Padoan said that the recapitalization of Monte dei Paschi will start in two to three months and added that the plan to compensate retail investors has been agreed with the European Commission, Reuters reported. The bank's shares have been suspended from trading since last week. All the other Italian banks were falling on Thursday, with Banco Popolare leading the falls.

Shares of the German plastics maker Covestro ended trade at the bottom of the Stoxx 600, contracting more than 3.7 percent, after DZ bank downgraded it from "hold" to "sell."

Basic resources stocks finished trading, down more than 1 percent after strong gains during Wednesday's trading. Chinese authorities are set to toughen up audits of overseas investments by national companies, Reuters reported.

Shares in the telecoms sector recovered slightly during morning's trade after being among the worst performers at the opening. The Italian state lender CDP announced Thursday it would not buy into Telecom Italia, after France's Vivendi decided to increase its stake in the Italian broadcaster Mediaset.

UK Housing Prices Rise

In terms of data, U.K. housing prices increased slightly in December. The latest Nationwide Housing Prices figures rose 4.5 percent year-on-year from 4.4 percent registered in November. Month-on-month prices went up by 0.8 percent.

Meanwhile, business morale in the U.K hit an 18-month high. A Deloitte survey showed Thursday that British companies were more confident in the fourth quarter on the back of a stronger-than-expected economic growth, Reuters reported.


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