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LONDON, Jan 3 (Reuters) - Strength in financials and commodity-related stocks continued to underpin European equity markets with Britain's FTSE 100 starting the new year at a record high on Tuesday.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 0.7 percent in early deals, climbing to its highest level since December 2015.
Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.4 to hit a fresh record high of 7,174.00 points. The UK blue-chip index had been closed in the previous session for a holiday.
Among individual stock movers, Italian banks were once again among top risers, with newly-merged Banco BPM gaining 4.6 percent on its second day of trading, building on a strong rise in the previous session.
Fellow banking stocks Credit Suisse and Bank of Ireland were also among top STOXX gainers, with the European banking index rising 1 percent.
Shares in British retailer Next were under pressure, however, after Deutsche Bank downgraded its rating on the stock to "hold" from "buy". (Reporting by Kit Rees, Editing by Vikram Subhedar)