* German and French markets up around 10 pct in 2015
* FTSE has underperformed, down around 5 pct (Updates with prices at close)
By Sudip Kar-Gupta and Kit Rees
LONDON, Dec 31 (Reuters) - European shares ended 2015 mostly higher than where they started, but well below their peaks after weak commodity prices weighed on markets in the final quarter.
Britain’s blue-chip FTSE 100 index shed 0.5 percent on Thursday and France’s benchmark CAC-40 index was down 0.9 percent, while Germany’s DAX was closed for a public holiday and other markets had half-day sessions.
Brent crude oil prices stayed near 11-year lows, with falls in oil companies such as BP and Total.
Shares have retreated from record highs reached in April, pulled down partly by concerns about a slowdown in China, the world’s second-biggest economy and a major consumer of commodities such as metals and oil.
But 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 overall in 2015.
However, the FTSE has underperformed its European rivals and is down around 5 percent for the year, partly because commodity-related stocks account for a bigger part of the market in Britain than in France and Germany.
The FTSE, DAX and CAC ended the year down 12 percent, 13 percent and more than 11 percent, respectively, from their April peaks.
A Reuters poll earlier this month forecast that while European stocks would rise in 2016, they would not get back to the highs of 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 Mark Trevelyan)