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European shares break three-session streak, fall in year's last full session

European shares break three-session streak, fall in year's last full session

LONDON _ European shares ended a three-session winning streak Friday on the last full trading day of 2007, as traders failed to find inspiration after gloomy economic data on both sides of the Atlantic amid thin volumes.
The pan-European Dow Jones Stoxx 600 index fell 0.2 percent to 364.39, as telecom-equipment Alcatel-Lucent dropped 2.7 percent, Spanish conglomerate Grupo Ferrovial fell 2.6 percent and telecom giant BT Group slipped 2.2 percent.
The decline came as data showed a sharper-than-expected drop in U.S. new-home sales and a second straight fall in British house prices, which followed Thursday's disappointing U.S. durable-goods orders.
The figures, combined with continued jitters from the assassination of Pakistan opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, pushed up the euro, which climbed 0.7 percent against the dollar and touched a new record against the British pound. The euro's strength hurts the competitiveness of European firms that export.
Among national indexes, the U.K. FTSE 100 index lost 0.3 percent at 6,676.90 and the French CAC-40 index finished a fraction of a point lower, at 5,627.25.
"Volume is reasonably low. It's very, very quiet," said Heino Ruland, strategist at consultancy FrankfurtFinanz.
Markets in London, Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels will have a half-session on Monday, while the German and Swiss stock markets will be shut.
The German DAX 30 index ended a holiday-shortened trading session - its last of the year -- with a gain of 0.4 percent to 8,067.32.
Leading the gains was sportswear maker Adidas , which closed up 2.6 percent, and Altana, up 2.7 percent.
The DAX 30 has outperformed the U.K. and the French equity markets this year, posting a gain of around 22 percent, while U.K. stocks have risen 4 percent and French stocks posted a gain of 1 percent.
Ruland said German stocks this year benefited from growing demand from emerging markets.
"It's a major beneficiary from globalization and has experienced strong demand from BRIC countries such as Brazil, China and India, which has resulted in above-average earnings growth for companies," he said.
In London, shares of HSBC Holdings traded down 0.6 percent. The Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. and European banks _ including HSBC and Citigroup _ are considering sales of assets, from branches to entire business units.
Kesa Electricals shares gained 5 percent after saying it was in exclusive talks to sell its BUT furniture and electricals business in France to a consortium of Colony Capital, Goldman Sachs and Merchant Equity Partners for 550 million euros ($808 million).
Colony has previously bought a stake in French supermarket giant Carrefour, largely due to its view of the underlying real estate that retailers possess.
Oil producers rose with crude futures holding over $97 a barrel. Austria's OMV rose 2 percent and Statoilhydro (STO) added 1.3 percent.
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