Markets mark time awaiting more definitive data
EUROPEAN shares were little changed yesterday as light volumes led to few shifts in the market, while data on US house prices and consumer confidence gave conflicting signals about the strength of the world's largest economy.
With the Irish and UK markets still closed, national benchmark indices gained in 10 of the 16 western European markets that were open.
Germany's DAX advanced 0.2pc, while France's CAC 40 was up marginally, as was the Stoxx Europe 600 Index.
"After the Christmas holidays, market participants are focused on the consumer-confidence index and Case-Shiller [housing price index]," said Andreas Lipkow, an equity trader at MWB Fairtrade in Frankfurt. "The unemployment data in the next days are more important for the market because it shows how strong the US economy really is."
Confidence among US consumers rose as an improving jobs market helped regain all the ground lost following the debt ceiling crisis and credit-rating downgrade in August. The Conference Board's index increased to 64.5 this month, exceeding economists' estimates. The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index of property values in 20 US cities dropped 3.4pc from October 2010, faster than had been expected.
Banks were the main focus of traders yesterday. In Portugal, Banco Comercial Portugues and Banco Espirito Santo rallied more than 7pc after a report said the government may recapitalise its banks without taking an equity stake.
Italian lenders UniCredit and Mediobanca retreated at least 4pc. Italy plans to sell almost €450bn of debt next year, which may be difficult given the current high yields on its debt. (Additional reporting by Bloomberg)