* STOXX 600 up 0.2 percent
* Banks lead sectoral fallers led by UniCredit
* Healthcare stocks rebound
* Gemalto surges after acquisition
(Live coverage of European markets now available on cpurl://apps.cp./cms/?pageId=livemarkets)
Adds details, updates prices)
By Danilo Masoni
MILAN, Dec 9 European shares steadied near
11-month highs on Friday after a strong week in which investors
snapped up beaten-down bank stocks on hopes a way could be found
to save ailing Italian lender Monte dei Paschi di Siena
Equities got a boost on Thursday after the European Central
Bank said it would scale back its monthly asset purchases, a
surprise move that lifted euro zone bond yields, which in turn
are seen helping reduce pressure on bank profits.
But the rally lost some momentum on Friday.
"After yesterday's stormy developments, the markets are
likely to settle down at the end of the week," BayernLB analyst
Alexander Plenk said in a note.
The STOXX 600 was up 0.2 percent by 1015 GMT as
gains among drug makers were partly offset by a pull-back in
banks. The pan-European index was on track to end the week up
nearly 4 percent, its best week since February.
Europe's STOXX bank index was down 1.1 percent,
leading sectoral fallers as profit-taking kicked in after the
index's best week in five years.
Monte dei Paschi fell 1.1 percent. The stock has
gained around 10 percent this week on bets a way can be found to
rescue the ailing lender, even involving state aid.
Such expectations helped shrug off concerns over political
instability after Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's resignation on
the back of a resounding defeat on Sunday in a referendum on his
plans for constitutional reform.
Italian newspapers said the ECB would decide on Friday on
whether to approve a request from Monte Paschi for an extension
to Jan. 20 of a deadline to complete its capital increase.
UniCredit fell more than 4 percent, making it one
of the heaviest fallers in Europe. Italy's largest lender is set
to announce next week the country's biggest bank share issue,
which could be worth up to 13 billion euros according to
Bank of Ireland fell almost 5 percent after one its
shareholders who helped keep the bank out of state hands in 2011
announced a sale of part of its stake.
Elsewhere on the broader market, Amsterdam-based digital
security company Gemalto rose 6.6 percent, making it
the biggest STOXX gainer, after agreeing to buy 3M's
identity-management business for $850 million.
Among other strong gainers, cable company Altice
rose 4 rise after saying it was exploring the possibility of
listing a minority stake in its U.S. subsidiary.
Europe's healthcare index rose 1.8 percent, leading sectoral
gainers, having been out of favour recently on concerns over
pricing pressure in the United States.
(Reporting by Danilo Masoni; Editing by Hugh Lawson)