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European Equity Benchmarks Close Higher as Bank Stocks Buoy Markets

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The broad-based major European indices closed higher Wednesday's trading session, as surging bank stocks helped lift the markets.

In economic news, investment in U.K.'s auto industry declined in 2016, after several years of strong growth, according to the head of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders ( SMMT ) trade organization.

"I sense certainly that the amount invested over the last 12 months will not be as high as the preceding one, two, three years." said Mike Hawes, CEO of SMMT told Parliament. Hawes was giving evidence to the Treasury Committee.

In Germany, the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) reported that price-adjusted new orders in the main construction industry in November decreased 1% from the previous month. In building construction and civil and underground engineering, in establishments of enterprises with 20 or more persons, turnover increased 6.3% compared with November of 2015.

In France, the business climate decreased slightly in January after a sharp rise in December, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE). The composite indicator, compiled from the answers of business managers in the main sectors, fell one point. However, at 104, it stands still above its long term average (100).

The business climate has gained four points in wholesale trade and one point in building construction. It is stable in industry. In contrast, it has lost four points in services and one point in retail trade.

And in Spain, the annual rate of the industrial prices stands at 2.8%, more than two points higher than that registered in November, according to the Spanish Statistical Institute. The monthly variation rate of the Industrial Price Index is 1.5%.

In equities, rallying bank stocks carried the FTSE into positive territory in London as Royal Bank of Scotland Group and Standard Chartered each rose 3.4%, while Lloyds Banking and Barclays gained 2.1% and 1%. Other major gainers included mining company Antofagasta, wealth management firm St. James's Place, and airline operator easyJet, which increased 4.1%, 3.1%, and 2.8% respectively.

In Frankfurt, Deutsche Bank led the DAX higher, surging 4.8%, followed by construction materials supplier Heidelbergcement, bank Commerzbank, and financial services firm Allianz, which rose 4.1%, 3.6%, and 3.3% respectively. Airline operator Deutsche Lufthansa, and life sciences company Bayer were up 2.9% and 2.8% each.

And in Paris, banks also lifted the CAC as Societe Generale, BNP Paribas, and Credit Agricole, rose 4.3%, 4.2%, and 2.2% respectively. Meanwhile, building materials company Lafargeholcim, oil and gas services firm TechnipFMC, and financial protection company Axa closed 3.4%, 3.1%, and 2.7% higher.

The FTSE gained 0.20%, the DAX climbed 1.82%, and the CAC-40 rose 0.99%.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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