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European stocks close lower in thin holiday trade

(Reuters) -European shares closed lower in light holiday trading on Friday, following a recent rally in global shares on signs the Omicron coronavirus variant may not derail global economic recovery.

The German share price index DAX graph is pictured at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, December 22, 2021. REUTERS/Staff

The pan-European STOXX 600 index slipped 0.1% to 483.01 in a shortened trading session ahead of Christmas. The benchmark has added 1.9% this week.

London’s FTSE 100 closed flat, while France’s CAC 40 ended 0.3% lower. Stock markets in several countries including Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the U.S. are closed on Friday for Christmas.

Most Asian markets edged higher and the S&P 500 closed at a record high overnight on positive economic data and as some studies suggested the Omicron variant carries a lower risk of hospitalisation.

“The European market is moving in tight ranges … due to light holiday trading and also driven by fears of possible restrictions and lockdowns,” said Raed Alkhedr, chief market analyst at Equiti Group.

Italy on Thursday tightened restrictions, including banning all public New Year’s Eve celebrations as daily COVID-19 infections hit a record high.

The STOXX 600 is entering the holiday period on a quiet note after rallying 21% so far this year. Though 2021 was marked by accommodative policies and positive corporate earnings, supply bottlenecks, inflationary pressures and a new COVID-19 variant threaten growth and recovery into 2022.

“Santa Claus isn’t starting a year end cheer-leading party in equity markets, but rather evoking a ‘Santa pause’ after this year’s bull run,” Vishnu Varathan, head of economics and strategy at Mizuho Bank, said.

French real estate firm Icade climbed 0.3% after announcing its healthcare property business acquired four private hospital properties in Portugal for 213 million euros.

Biotech firm Lysogene jumped 9.1% after entering a 15-million-euro loan agreement with the European Investment Bank to accelerate its gene therapy platform.

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