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Europe bourses inch lower as investors monitor geopolitical unrest

European stock markets were lower during Tuesday morning trade, as investors reacted to surprisingly upbeat economic data in China and continued to monitor geopolitical unrest in Iran.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 edged 0.3 percent lower during early morning deals, with most sectors and major bourses in negative territory.

Autos stocks were the worst performers on Tuesday morning, down more than 1.4 percent shortly after the opening bell. Ferrari and Fiat Chrysler led the sector’s losses, both falling more than 2.5 percent in early trade. Shares of Ferrari were temporarily suspended from trade before resuming.

Looking at individual stocks, Steinhoff International surged to the top of the European benchmark on Tuesday. The South African retailer said it is continuing to work with external auditors to conclude the probe into its 2017 results and would also consider restating other prior years’ results. The embattled firm was more than 9 percent higher in early morning deals.

Vestas Wind was also trading higher on Tuesday, up more than 3 percent after Sydbank upgraded its outlook on the Danish wind power company to “buy” from “hold”.

Data, geopolitical tension

In Asia, shares surged to decade highs on Tuesday after a survey of Chinese manufacturing activity showed stronger-than-anticipated market sentiment. The Caixin index of Chinese industry rose to a four-month high in December, beating analyst forecasts and sending Shanghai blue-chip stocks more than 1 percent higher.

The unexpectedly robust economic data comes at a time when the world’s second-largest economy is cracking down on industrial pollution and attempts to negotiate a cooling property market.

Global sentiment was supported by news that North Korea had adopted an unusually conciliatory tone with South Korea. In his annual New Year’s Day address, leader Kim Jong Un said he wished for a “peaceful resolution” with Seoul.

Elsewhere, Iranian protesters attacked police stations late into the night on Monday, news agency and social media reports said, as security forces struggled to contain the boldest challenge to the clerical leadership since unrest in 2009.

In commodities, oil prices were little changed on Tuesday morning, amid unrest in Iran and ongoing supply cuts by OPEC and Russia. Brent crude traded at around $66.87 a barrel, unmoved from the previous session, while U.S. crude was seen at $60.50, up 0.1 percent.

Source: CNBC & Reuters

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