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European stock markets close their best week since November 2020

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By Sruthi Shankar and Bansari Mayur Kamdar

March 18 (Reuters) – European accesses rose on Friday, adding to strong gains earlier in the week, as investors focused on peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, and talks between U.S. President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

* The pan-European STOXX 600 index closed 0.9% higher on Friday, with technology stocks leading the gains.

* The benchmark index posted its biggest weekly return since November 2020 on optimism that peace will be negotiated in the Ukraine conflict, which has rattled global markets.

* “It’s been a strange week because while we still have everything that’s going on in the Ukraine, we’re also back to normal and investors like normalcy,” said Danni Hewson, financial analyst at AJ Bell.

* US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping discussed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in a video call, with Chinese media saying Xi stressed that such conflicts are in no one’s interest.

* Helping confidence, Russia paid $117 million in interest owed on two sovereign dollar bonds, allaying doubts about its ability to honor foreign debt following harsh Western sanctions.

* “In European markets, we are very close to pre-war levels. We are very far from pricing in a negative scenario,” said Alexandre Deruaz, head of portfolio management at Unigestion.

* “The impact on the growth cycle comes from oil. We have passed the short-term maximum price point for oil. So everyone recognizes that inflation is through the roof, but at some point it will have a smaller impact” .

* Crude oil prices hit $139 a barrel last week as concerns over Western sanctions on Russia, a major commodity exporter, raised concerns about rising inflation.

* Crude oil has retreated from those levels and the fournes were trading around $106 a barrel, sending energy stocks down 0.8%.

(Reporting by Sruthi Shankar and Bansari Mayur Kamdar in Bengaluru; Editing in Spanish by Javier López de Lérida)

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