European banking shares get a reprieve as HSBC, SocGen rally
LONDON Aug 3 (Reuters) - European stocks rose slightly on Wednesday with banks putting in a rare day of outperformance helped by strong gains for HSBC, SocGen and Credit Agricole.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index, which had fallen in the last two sessions, and the similar FTSEurofirst 300 both advanced by 0.2 percent at the open.
HSBC rose 3.7 percent as its plans to buy back up to $2.5 billion worth of its shares soothed investors, even as HSBC reported a drop in profits.
SocGen shares also climbed 4.4 percent after the French bank reported higher net profits, while its rival Credit Agricole rose 3.6 percent after it finalised a major overhaul of ties with its parent.
Nevertheless, the STOXX Europe 600 Banking index remains down by around 30 percent so far in 2016 - the worst-performing sector in Europe, while the broader STOXX 600 index is down 8 percent so far this year.
Concerns over bad debts and weak capital positions have hit the European banking sector, with shares in Germany's Commerzbank touching a record low on Wednesday. (Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Vikram Subhedar)
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