Europe shares steady in pre-holiday trade

PARIS Mon Dec 24, 2012 8:08am GMT

PARIS Dec 24 (Reuters) - European shares were broadly steady on Monday, consolidating their sharp gains made in the past five weeks, with volumes set to be thin for the traditionally quiet half-session ahead of the Christmas break.

A number of European markets such as the French, Dutch, Spanish and UK ones will only trade for half the session on Monday, while trading in Germany, Italy, Austria, Greece, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland will be closed.

At 0805 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was down 0.04 percent at 1,138.56 points, still just a few points shy of an 19-month high of 1,144.15 hit last week.

UK's FTSE 100 index was up 0.05 percent, France's CAC 40 up 0.2 percent and Spain's IBEX down 0.2 percent.

Investors remained cautious as talks between Democrats and Republicans to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff - automatic tax hikes and spending cuts that could drag the world's biggest economy back into recession - were stalled on Monday, with U.S. President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner out of Washington for the Christmas holidays.

The FTSEurofirst 300 is set to post a gain of 13.8 percent for 2012, its best annual performance since the sharp bounce of 2009, boosted by bold measures from central banks to revive global growth and resolve the euro zone debt crisis.

"This year has been a year of transition, and now it's time to turn the page and move on, to start picking stocks again for the long term, companies exposed to the emerging consumer in places like Asia and Africa," said David Thebault, head of quantitative sales trading, at Global Equities.