European stocks rally picks up pace as services growth impresses

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London (Reuters):  A rally in European stocks picked up pace on Thursday, following the lead of Asian shares which hit a ten-year peak overnight, as better-than-expected U.S. car sales data and rising oil prices drove auto and energy stocks higher.

Gains spanning cyclical sectors including industrials .SXNP and banks .SX7P drove the pan-European STOXX 600 up 0.5 percent while euro zone stocks .STOXXE and blue-chips rose 0.6 percent.

Germany’s DAX .GDAXI led the way with a 0.9 percent gain thanks to strong carmakers and industrials, while Britain’s FTSE 100 .FTSE hit a record high.

U.S. car sales data for December beat analysts’ expectations, driving European automakers .SXAP up 1.5 percent, leading sector gainers.

Italian carmaker Fiat Chrysler (FCHA.MI) rose 4 percent to hit a record high, among top STOXX gainers, while Daimler (DAIGn.DE), Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) and BMW (BMWG.DE) led the DAX.

Remy Cointreau (RCOP.PA) was a rare laggard, down 2.9 percent after Investec downgraded the stock, saying Chinese anti-corruption measures could affect consumption of costly status symbol products like cognac.

In the UK small-cap space Debenhams (DEB.L) shares sank 19 percent after a profit warning. The stock was set for its worst ever daily fall after the UK department store said price cuts failed to lure shoppers in.

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