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EUROPE MARKETS: European Stocks Score 2 1/2-year Closing High

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01/19/2018 | 06:51pm CET

By Carla Mozee, MarketWatch

Investors shrug off concerns over possible U.S. government shutdown

European stocks rose on Friday, with gains for industrial and tech shares helping the region's benchmark bag a third straight weekly win, as investors appeared to set aside concerns about a possible shutdown of the U.S. government.

What are stocks doing?: The Stoxx Europe 600 index rose 0.5% to close at 400.88, marking its highest close since early August 2015, according to FactSet data.

For the week, the pan-European gauge scored a 0.6% gain, marking a third weekly advance.

In Friday's trade, Germany's DAX 30 index rose 1.2% to 13,434.45, closing at its highest level since November last year.

France's CAC 40 tacked on 0.6% to 5,526.51, while Spain's IBEX 35 bulked up 0.5% to 10,479.50.

The U.K.'s FTSE 100 index ended up 0.4% at 7,730.79 after a choppy trade.

The euro bought $1.2236, down slightly from $1.2239 late Thursday in New York.

What's driving markets: European stocks had a tentative start, with politics here and abroad on the radar. The session got under way and closed with news that the U.S. government may still shut down Saturday.

The U.S. House of Representatives late Thursday passed a one-month spending bill that would keep the government funded through Feb. 16 . However, the measure appears to lacks support in the Senate. The current interim funding bill expires at 12:01 a.m. Eastern Time on Saturday.

But U.S. stocks didn't seem too rattled by the prospects of a work stoppage in Washington. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.2%, while the S&P 500 index was up 0.1% at the time of the European close.

Meanwhile, members of the Germany's Social Democratic Party on Sunday in Bonn will vote on whether the party should delve into deeper discussions with German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative party about possibly forming a coalition government. Merkel hasn't been able to put together a ruling coalition since September's election.

Tech stocks in Europe continued to build on recent gains, with the Stoxx Europe 600 Technology Index up 0.8% on Friday and up 3.2% for the week. Aiding gains this week was a report that U.S. shipments of chips are set to reach $50.1 billion in 2021 (https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/us-shipments-of-semiconductors-to-reach-501-billion-in-2021-300584062.html).

What strategists are saying: "We expect the [EUR/USD] pair to continue to trade in a sideways manner for the short term and it could be influenced by the fundamental news regarding the possible U.S. government shutdown, as well as any further developments on the German government coalition, especially on the SPD side," said Peter Iosif, senior research analyst at IronFX, in a note.

"Please be advised, that there is a possibility that the pair could open with a negative gap on Monday, should the SPD congress decide not to back the deal struck by SPD leadership with [Merkel's] Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union," said Iosif.

Stock movers: Thyssenkrupp AG (>> thyssenKrupp) climbed 4.5%, posting of the biggest gains in the DAX 30 index. CEO Heinrich Hiesinger has confirmed the steelmaker's 2018 targets and said the company is still working on its planned joint venture with Tata Steel, according to Dow Jones Newswires.

Volkswagen AG shares (>> Volkswagen AG) (>> Volkswagen AG) claimed a 2.1% rise, with Deutsche Bank saying it will take profit after a "great run" in shares of Infineon Technologies AG (>> Infineon Technologies) and reinvest some of the proceeds into Volkswagen shares.

"DB analysts see 2018/19 as the sweet spot for VW, which they believe is yet to be fully priced," said Deutsche Bank head of research Andrea Neubauer in a note issued Friday.

Shares of semiconductor company Infineon ended up 1% on Friday, pushing its gain to 11% so far this year.

DIY retailer Kingfisher PLC (>> Kingfisher) dropped 2.3% after flooring seller Carpetright PLC (>> Carpetright plc) issued a profit warning, sending its shares tumbling 40%.

Easyjet PLC (>> easyJet) rose 4.7% following a ratings upgrade to equal weight from overweight at Morgan Stanley. Air France-KLM (>> Air France-KLM) was downgraded to equal weight from overweight, but its shares managed to gain 0.4%.

Economic data: U.K. retail sales dropped sharply in December, with the 1.5% fall nearly double the decline estimated in a poll conducted by The Wall Street Journal. The Office for National Statistics also sales in 2017 rose 1.9%, the slowest rate of annual growth since 2013.

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