EUROPE MARKETS: European Stocks Score 2-month High As Shares Of Car Makers, Oil Companies Rise

By Sara Sjolin, MarketWatchFeaturesDow Jones Newswires

Germany's DAX and France's CAC "electric" in Thursday's trade

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.

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Major energy companies helped to 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 0.9% to end at 393.68, closing at its highest close since Nov. 8, when the pan-European index ended at 394.45, according to FactSet.

Germany's DAX 30 index jumped 1.5% to 13,167.89, while France's CAC 40 index (FR) added 1.6% to 5,413.69.

The U.K.'s FTSE 100 index inched 0.3% higher to 7,695.88, enough to score and all-time closing high (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/oil-majors-power-ftse-100-higher-as-iran-tensions-stir-energy-markets-2018-01-04).

The euro rose to $1.2066, up from $1.2014 late Wednesday in New York.

What is driving the market: European investors took a lead from Asia and the U.S. In Asia, 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), on its first trading day of the year.

And in the U.S. the Dow Jones Industrial Average breezed past the 25,000 milestone for the first time ever (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/dow-on-track-for-25000-milestone-as-global-stock-rally-stays-strong-2018-01-04) while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite Index also traded in record territory. The gains in the U.S. came after a stronger-than-expected report on private-sector hiring (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/private-sector-job-growth-sizzles-in-december-with-250000-jobs-added-adp-says-2018-01-04).

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 1.8%, closing at its highest level since June 2015.

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 1.2%.

What are strategists saying: "Ding ding ding! After stalling in the second half of December the Dow Jones has rediscovered its mojo, crossing the 25,000(!!!) mark for the first time in its history off the back of some supercharged jobs figures," said Connor Campbell, financial analyst at Spreadex, in a note.

"This latest U.S. record inspired the European indices to expand their own growth. Despite the euro rising against both the dollar and the pound the DAX and CAC were electric," he added.

Stock movers: Among car makers, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (FCA.MI) (FCA.MI) jumped 8.4% 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) and Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB.LN) (RDSB.LN) each added 1.1%, Tullow Oil (TLW.LN) climbed 2.1%, and Total SA (TOT) (TOT) gained 2%.

Shares of Rémy Cointreau SA (RCO.FR) fell 2.9%. The French liquor company was downgraded to sell from hold by Investec.

Air France-KLM (AF.FR) fell 1.9% after Air France pilot unions threatened to go on strike on Jan. 11 unless management meets a set of their demands.

Outside the main European index, shares of Debenhams PLC (DEB.LN) plunged 15% 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 13:13 ET (18:13 GMT)