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EUROPE MARKETS: European Stocks Finish Higher While Potential Trade Tension Looms At G-20

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03/17/2017 | 07:09pm CET

By Carla Mozee, MarketWatch

Stoxx 600 wraps up an event-filled week with a win

European stocks closed higher Friday, managing to hang on to their strongest levels in more than a year as investors turned to a Group of 20 gathering after a hefty week of political and financial events.

The Stoxx Europe 600 index ended up 0.2% at 378.32, sloughing off modest intraday losses to log its best finish since Dec. 2, 2015, according to FactSet data. All but the financial sector ended higher.

The pan-European benchmark rose 1.4% for the week, a second weekly rise in three weeks. The week contained a laundry list of so-called event risks, ranging from the general election in the Netherlands and the Federal Reserve's policy meeting, at which the bank signaled it will continue on a gradual path of raising rates.

G-20 gathering: As the trading week wound down, the G-20 meeting of finance ministers and central bankers from the world's largest economies was kicking off in Baden-Baden, a spa town bordering Germany's Black Forest.

"The big overhang here is [U.S. President] Donald Trump's intentions over global trade. There has been no shortage of talk about border taxes and even the threat in isolation has been sufficient to repatriate some jobs to the US, but the detail is still unknown and this has the potential to create a tense atmosphere," said Tony Cross, market analyst at TopTradr, in a note.

"It is perhaps the clues this meeting may hold over future U.S. trade deals that will provide the most meaningful direction," he said.

In Washington Friday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was meeting with Trump for the first time at the White House. NPR reported she traveled with top executives from German corporate heavyweights BMW, Siemens and industrial parts manufacturer Schaeffler.

Watch the Trump/Merkel news conference: live blog and video (http://blogs.marketwatch.com/capitolreport/2017/03/17/trump-and-merkel-news-conference-live-blog-and-video/)

Dutch vote: Part of this week's rise in European equities came after Dutch voters rebuffed Geert Wilders's far-right party in a general election, according to a preliminary result. Wilders's party was a concern for some investors as it advocates leaving the European Union and halting Muslim immigration. The party was still projected to pick up seats.

"The mere fact that an anti-EU party didn't come to power in the Netherlands justifies the positive reaction in markets," said Jasper Lawler, senior market analyst at London Capital Markets, in a note.

"If the Dutch result tells us anything, it's that political discontent means more votes outside the political mainstream on both the left and the right," he said. "In our view, the Dutch election result was not an endorsement of the EU; it was just a rejection of the far right. If that's true, then political union will still be an uphill struggle, keeping breakup risk alive.

In Amsterdam, the AEX ended Friday's session up 0.3% and ended the week higher by 1%.

Movers: Tullow Oil PLC (>> Tullow Oil plc) shares sank 14.8% as the oil and gas exploration company proposed a rights issue to raise $750 million .

Airbus Group SE (>> Airbus Group) fell 0.5% after France's financial-crimes investigator started a preliminary investigation into alleged wrongdoing at the European plane maker over potential corruption.

Berkeley Group Holdings PLC shares (>> Berkeley Group Holdings PLC) rose 6.1% after the home-builder said its pretax profit for fiscal 2017 will be at the top end of analysts' expectations . The company also said it's started to build fewer homes in London, citing Brexit uncertainty as reason for a fall in reservations.

Indexes: Germany's DAX 30 index finished up 0.1% at 12,095.24, and France's CAC 40 added 0.3% to end at 5,029.24.

The FTSE 100 ended up 0.1% at 7,424.96, a second straight record-high close .

The euro on Friday was buying $1.0737, up from $1.0768 late Thursday in New York. The shared currency declined after an Ipsos poll showed French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen with 1 percentage point lead over centrist hopeful Emmanuel Macron, at 27% to 26%, in first-round voting set for April 23. Macron picked up a percentage point in the latest poll.

But the poll, published in Le Monde, also showed Macron winning over Le Pen in second-round voting, by 61% to 39%.

Stocks mentioned in the article : Tullow Oil plc, Berkeley Group Holdings PLC, Airbus Group
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