EUROPE MARKETS: European Stocks Set For 2-week High, Boosted By Car Makers And Oil Majors

By Sara Sjolin, MarketWatch Features Dow Jones Newswires

Oil prices hit three-year highs

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European stock markets posted broad-based gains on Thursday, joining a global rally that has taken Japan's benchmark index to a 26-year high and sent all three major U.S. indexes to fresh records.

Energy majors helped propel equity markets higher in Europe as oil prices hit a three-year high, while car maker shares jumped after better-than-expected U.S. auto sales data.

What are markets doing: The Stoxx Europe 600 index gained 0.5% to 392.18, setting it on track for its highest close since Dec. 18, when the pan-European index ended at 392.66, according to FactSet.

Germany's DAX 30 index jumped 1% to 13,108.81, while France's CAC 40 index (FR) added 0.8% to 5,373.73.

The U.K.'s FTSE 100 index inched 0.1% higher to 7,681.86, lifted by gains for the benchmark's oil majors (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/oil-majors-power-ftse-100-higher-as-iran-tensions-stir-energy-markets-2018-01-04).

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The euro rose to $1.2027, up from $1.2014 late Wednesday in New York.

What is driving the market: European investors took a lead from Asia, where Japan's Nikkei 225 index jumped 3.3% for its highest close since January 1992 (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/nikkei-soars-on-its-first-trading-day-of-2018-leading-asian-market-gains-2018-01-03). U.S. markets also instilled global trading optimism after the S&P 500 , the Dow Jones Industrial Average and Nasdaq Composite Index all closed at records on Wednesday (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/dow-flirts-with-fresh-records-as-traders-wait-for-fed-minutes-2018-01-03).

Car makers were among biggest advancers in Europe on Thursday, after U.S. car sales data out on Wednesday beat forecasts (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/us-auto-sales-slip-in-december-2018-01-03-11103433). The Stoxx Europe 600 automobiles and parts index rose 1.2%, trading around its highest level since November.

Oil companies were also charging higher as crude prices rose to three-year highs as antigovernment protests continued in Iran (https://www.wsj.com/articles/iran-protests-caught-trump-administration-by-surprise-1515018601). There are fears that the riots, which have left more than 20 people dead, may lead to disruption to crude output from OPEC's third-largest producer, which would limit global oil supply and support prices. The Stoxx Europe 600 oil & gas index added 0.9%.

What are strategists saying: "Equity investors across the globe are finding no reasons to take profits after an excellent performance in 2017. Asian stocks are trading at record highs after Japan kicked off the first trading day of 2018, European markets are [higher] today despite cautiousness amid the launch of new market rules from the EU (https://www.fnlondon.com/articles/a-guide-to-the-biggest-trading-changes-as-mifid-ii-goes-live-20180103), and all U.S. major indices closed at all-time highs with S&P 500 breaching 2,700," said Hussein Sayed, chief market strategist at FXTM, in a note.

Stock movers: Among car makers, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (FCA.MI) (FCA.MI) jumped 4.2%, on track for a record closing high. Renault (FR) gained 1.3%, and Daimler AG (DAI.XE) climbed 1.2%.

In the energy sector, shares of BP PLC (BP.LN) (BP.LN) added 1.1%, Tullow Oil (TLW.LN) climbed 2.3%, and Total SA (TOT) (TOT) gained 0.7%.

Shares of Rémy Cointreau SA (RCO.FR) fell 4.2%. The French liquor company was downgraded to sell from hold by Investec, according to Dow Jones Newswires.

Outside the main European index, shares of Debenhams PLC (DEB.LN) plunged 16% after the department store chain warned on profit (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/debenhams-warns-on-profit-after-disappointing-christmas-sales-2018-01-04) after disappointing sales.

Economic news: The final reading on the eurozone's services purchasing managers' index came in better than expected, printing at 56.6. That was higher than 56.5 preliminary reading and up from 56.2 in November. The composite PMI also rose more than forecast, coming in at 58.1, up from 57.5 in November.

In the U.K., the services PMI climbed to 54.2 in December, from 53.8 the previous month.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 04, 2018 05:00 ET (10:00 GMT)