31 de diciembre de 2014 / 14:08 / en 3 años

European stocks post yearly gain after late rebound

(Updates prices at provisional market close)

* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.4 pct, posts 3.9 pct yearly rise

* FTSE 100 only major European index to post 2014 fall

* Ballast Nedam surges on merger/acquisition approaches

By Francesco Canepa and Sudip Kar-Gupta

LONDON, Dec 31 (Reuters) - European shares edged up on Wednesday, helping most regional indexes beef up modest yearly gains after a tumultuous 2014.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index of pan-European shares was 0.4 percent higher at 1,367.88 points at the provisional close on Wednesday. That gave it a gain for the year of 3.9 percent.

The index had surged more than 7 percent since Dec. 16. Many investors bought on the assumption the European Central Bank would announce sovereign bond purchases -- quantitative easing (QE) -- early next year to revive the euro zone economy. That would lower bond yields, making equities more attractive.

“Our take is that ECB QE will be announced in March,” said SteppenWolf Capital chief investment officer Phoebus Theologites. “Despite the objections of the Germanic bloc, we view QE as unavoidable.”

The year had been marked by volatility, as the Federal Reserve ended its own QE programme and the global economic picture became more mixed. Economies slowed in the euro zone and several emerging markets.

Dutch construction group Ballast Nedam led gains on Wednesday. It shares surged 25 percent after an approach on a possible merger or takeover.

France’s CAC-40 advanced 0.6 percent to end the year roughly where it started it. Spain’s Ibex posted a 3.7 percent annual rise after closing flat for the day. The German and Italian stock markets were shut .

Britain’s blue-chip FTSE 100 index, up 0.3 percent on Wednesday, was the only major European index to post a loss for the year, caused by its high exposure to the energy and commodities sectors. It ended 2014 down 2.7 percent.

Copper prices were set to post their worst annual decline in three years on worries about growth in China, the world’s biggest copper consumer. The price of Brent crude has halved in 2014 as the U.S. shale-oil boom and OPEC’s refusal to cut output caused a glut in supply.

Greek shares fell by nearly 29 percent in 2014 despite a late bounce on Wednesday. The country is heading for an early general election on Jan. 25, which radical leftist party Syriza is forecast to win.

Investors, however, largely believe that any effect on other European markets from Greece would be mitigated by firewalls raised by European institutions following the sovereign debt crisis, such as the euro zone’s bailout fund and ECB bond purchases.

“A new Greek crisis would inevitably lead to temporary tensions on other EA (euro area) issuers,” said Luca Mezzomo, an analyst at Intesa Sanpaolo. “However, the risk of contagion is now very limited.”

($1 = 0.8229 euros)

Europe bourses in 2014: link.reuters.com/pap87v

Asset performance in 2014: link.reuters.com/gap87v

Today’s European research round-up (Editing by Catherine Evans, Larry King)

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