* European equity YTD sector performance: bit.ly/2h3SjpY
* Major European indexes: bit.ly/2hRsmKh
By Kit Rees
LONDON, Dec 16 (Reuters) - Political events, wild swings and big sector rotations have punctuated a busy year for European equities, which, after a dismal start, have bounced in the final weeks to recoup most of their earlier losses.
Markets reacted in ways that few predicted to June’s Brexit vote in Britain, Donald Trump’s U.S. presidential election win in November and Italy’s referendum on constitutional reform.
“People have been a bit like rabbits in the headlights around these events and then, as a result, have been somewhat surprised by the market response,” said Will James, manager of the Standard Life Investments European Equity Income fund.
After all the twists and turns, Europe’s benchmark FTSEurofirstindex is poised to end little changed for the year - but that masks some wild fluctuations. Here is a look at some of the biggest winners, losers and everything in between.
BEST-PERFORMING EUROPEAN MARKETS: Russia and Bulgaria , both up around 26 percent so far this year. ( bit.ly/2hRsmKh )
A recovery in oil prices, a rush back to emerging markets and a stable rouble have lifted Russian stocks. Among Bulgarian equities, banks have been the stand-out performers.
WORST-PERFORMING EUROPEAN MARKETS: Bosnia, down 33 percent, and Denmark, down 15.6 percent.
The falls in these two markets have overtaken both Portugal and Italy, which were plagued by worries about their respective banking systems. Denmark’s main index is particularly heavy on healthcare stocks, which have fallen out of favour this year.
BEST SECTORS: European Basic Resources, up 65 percent this year, and Oil & Gas, up nearly 20 percent. ( bit.ly/2h3SjpY )
The mining sector was the black sheep of 2015, hobbled by debt, a slowdown in growth in China, and a slump in metals prices. This year’s recovery accelerated after Trump’s election win, which spurred a huge rotation into sectors more likely to benefit from fiscal stimulus and wider economic growth.
Miner Anglo American is the best performing major stock this year, up nearly 290 percent. It was closely followed by Melrose Industries, Glencore and ArcelorMittal, up between 145 to 240 percent.
BIGGEST TURNAROUND: European banks
Beaten-up European banks have surged in the final quarter. Deutsche Bank is up nearly 80 percent from its September lows, and French and Dutch banks are well off their lows and in the green for the year.
Italian banks and Spanish banks are still among the region’s worst performing stocks for the year as a whole, however. Italy’s Banco Popolare and BPM and Spain’s Banco Popular Espanol have each fallen more than 60 percent in 2016.
WORST PERFORMING SECTORS: Telecoms, down 17 percent, Travel & Leisure, down 14 percent, and Health Care , down 13 percent.
“The biggest change in the last few weeks or months is that telecoms and utilities have been de-rated to such an extent now where I think they are looking good value again,” said Simon Gergel, chief investment officer of UK Equities at Allianz.
While travel stocks have had a hard time because of militant attacks in France and Belgium and security concerns in destinations such as Turkey and Egypt, telecoms and health care firms have suffered from a rotation out of bond proxies.
While pharmaceutical firms have been hit by increasing drug pricing pressures in the United States, the telecommunications sector has been dented by the failure of several mergers.
FTSE 100 RALLY: Bouncing back from an initial sell-off after the UK’s shock Brexit vote, UK blue chips are up 11 percent this year, thanks to gains among the multinational, dollar-earning firms in the index, which should be able to weather a weaker pound.
Among the major European indexes, the FTSE 100 is the best performer this year.
Reporting by Kit Rees; Editing by Kevin Liffey