* German and French markets up around 10 pct in 2015
* FTSE has underperformed, down around 5 pct in 2015
By Sudip Kar-Gupta
LONDON, Dec 31 (Reuters) - European shares were set on Thursday to end 2015 with gains made over the course of the year, although they remained below earlier peaks after weak commodity prices weighed on markets in the final quarter.
Britain’s blue-chip FTSE 100 index and France’s benchmark CAC-40 index were both down 0.4 percent on Thursday.
Germany’s DAX was closed for a public holiday, while other markets were due for only a half day of trading.
Brent crude oil prices stayed near 11-year lows, with shares in oil companies such as BP and Total falling.
“The FTSE is crawling towards the finishing line looking a bit bruised and battered,” said Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell.
Both the FTSE and DAX have fallen from record highs reached in April, pulled down partly by concerns about a slowdown in China, which is the world’s second-biggest economy and a major consumer of commodities such as metals and oil.
Economic stimulus measures from the European Central Bank have prevented markets from losing too much ground, with the main German and French markets both up some 10 percent in 2015.
However, the FTSE has underperformed its European rivals and is down around 5 percent in 2015, partly because commodity-related stocks account for a bigger part of the market in Britain than in France and Germany.
The FTSE is nearly 10 percent below a record level reached in April. Germany’s DAX ended the year some 13 percent below a record high reached in April, while the French market is also more than 10 percent below its April peak this year.
A Reuters poll earlier this month forecast that while European stocks would rise in 2016, they would not get back to those peak levels reached in 2015.
Admiral Markets’ Darren Sinden said that despite some lingering concerns about debt-ridden European economies such as Greece, European stocks still promised better returns for investors than the low yields on offer in bond markets.
“European stocks are still probably the best choice in a limited range of options,” said Sinden.
“There’s not much incentive to hold bonds, and the U.S. is at the tail-end of a bull run, so it’s hard to justify putting your money there. Nevertheless, in Europe, I still have some concerns about the domestic European economic recovery,” he added.
Today’s European research round-up (Editing by Ruth Pitchford)