December 31, 2018 / 8:42 AM / 7 months ago

European shares in tentative New Year's Eve rise after bruising 2018

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* STOXX 600 set for worst year in a decade

* APRIL rallies in France in dealmaking news

LONDON, Dec 31 (Reuters) - European shares were slightly higher in early deals on Monday as soothing comments from Washington and Beijing about trade frictions between the world’s top two economies provided some salve for investors after a bruising year in equity markets.

The STOXX 600 was up 0.3 percent by 0833 GMT, continuing to claw back from multi-year losses hit on Thursday.

France’s CAC 40 was up 0.6 percent, Spain’s IBEX was up 0.5 percent while Britain’s FTSE 100 was up 0.2 percent. Volumes were thin with German and Milan bourses shut and London and Euronext closing early ahead of the New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Market mood brightened slightly after U.S. President Donald Trump said he held a “very good call” with China’s President Xi Jinping on Saturday to discuss trade and claimed “big progress” was being made.

Chinese state media were more reserved, saying Xi hoped the negotiating teams could meet each other half way and reach an agreement that was mutually beneficial.

Still, investors were heading into the year-end licking their wounds after a torrid year amid lingering worries about slowing global economic growth amid the prolonged trade spat and expectations of more U.S. interest rate hikes.

Highlighting some of those concerns, data on Monday showed China’s factory activity contracted for the first time in over two years in December, as the world’s second-largest economy lost further momentum.

The pan European STOXX 600 was on track for its worst year in a decade, while euro-zone stocks were set for worst performance since 2011.

The mining and resources sector was the biggest gainer in early deals on Monday, up 0.9 percent, buoyed by stronger copper prices even as most industrial metals headed for losses in 2018.

In individual moves, APRIL surged to its highest since May 2011 after Private equity firm CVC Capital Partners said it was in exclusive talks with French peer Evolem to buy its majority stake in the French insurer. (Reporting by Josephine Mason; editing by Julien Ponthus)

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