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EUROPE MARKETS: European Stocks Notch 2-month High, But Bank Stocks Pare Heftier Gain

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09/28/2017 | 07:25pm CET

By Carla Mozee, MarketWatch

Ryanair shares retreat

European stocks booked their sixth straight win Thursday on the way to a two-month high, but bank stocks pared bigger gains as market momentum surrounding prospects for U.S. tax cuts ebbed.

Finishing firmly in the red were shares of Swedish apparel retailer H&M after a disappointing earnings report, while Ryanair Holdings PLC shares were dogged by troubles stemming from the carrier's ongoing cancellation of hundreds of flights.

The Stoxx Europe Index closed up 0.2% to 386.36 after a choppy trading session. But that was enough to mark its longest winning streak since late April, according to FactSet data. Thursday's settlement was also the highest since July 17. Industrial and tech stocks led gainers, while telecom and utility shares, among others, fell.

The index on Wednesday closed up 0.4% , aided by advances for bank stocks.

Bank stocks on Thursday ended higher overall, but the 1% intraday rise for the Stoxx Europe 600 Banks Index was slimmed to a rise of 0.1%. Germany's Deutsche Bank AG (>> Deutsche Bank) (>> Deutsche Bank) closed up 2.7%, off session peak, and Spain's Banco Santander SA (>> Banco Santander, S.A.) rose 0.5%. France's Societe Generale SA (>> Société Générale) closed up 0.4% and the U.K.'s Barclays PLC (>> Barclays PLC) (>> Barclays PLC) tacked on 1%.

Bank stocks have risen this week as investors priced in the prospect of higher interest rates, as those mean that banks can charge more for their loans.

U.S. President Donald Trump's tax cuts proposal (http://blogs.marketwatch.com/capitolreport/2017/09/27/republicans-roll-out-tax-cut-plans-for-individuals-and-companies-live-blog/) presented on Wednesday was seen as reinforcing expectations for a rate rise in December.

"European markets have seen marginal gains today, as the optimism surrounding Trump's tax plans seems to have run out of steam. With sharp gains for the likes of EURUSD and GBPUSD, it is clear that despite the potential bounty for the U.S. economy, there is a great deal of skepticism over the timing and ability to deliver such reforms," IG Market Analyst Joshua Mahony wrote in a note.

The euro and the pound marched higher during the session, and currency strength can weigh on shares of multinational companies that weigh heavily on European benchmarks.

Bank of England's Chief Economist Andy Haldane, in a Sky News interview (http://news.sky.com/story/interest-rate-rise-should-not-be-feared-says-bank-of-england-economist-11056411) published late Wednesday, said a rise in borrowing costs would represent a "good news story" for the U.K. as it would reflect improvement in the British economy.

Haldane's comments came as Boston Federal Reserve President Eric Rosengren late Wednesday said he backs 'regular and gradual' interest-rate rises . Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen this week said she plans for the Fed to keep raising interest rates gradually even though inflation has softened.

Stock movers: Hennes & Mauritz AB, better known as H&M, (HM-B.SK) fell 5.1%, the biggest fall since June. The fashion retailer's third-quarter profit dropped 20%, missing analyst expectations, hurt by heavy price-cutting and fewer visitors to its stores .

Ryanair (>> Ryanair Holdings plc) was dragged down 3.7% as the airline faced legal action from a U.K. regulator , which said Wednesday that Ryanair is "persistently misleading passengers" about their rights following thousands of canceled flights across Europe.

Balfour Beatty PLC (>> Balfour Beatty) leapt 5.6% after Peel Hunt upgraded the construction services company's rating to buy, saying management has significantly reduced investment-related risks.

Indexes: Spain's IBEX 35 index fell 0.4% to 10,328.50, as the market moved closer to Sunday's independence referendum in the Catalonia region, which includes the city of Barcelona.

France's CAC 40 index ended up 0.2% at 5,293.77. Germany's DAX rose 0.4% to 12,704.65. In the U.K., the FTSE 100 index notched a 0.1% rise at 7,322.82

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