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European shares edge higher as trade uncertainty boosts defensives

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By Reuters
European shares edge higher as trade uncertainty boosts defensives
FILE PHOTO: Traders work at their desks at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, November 22, 2017. REUTERS/Staff/Remote   -   Copyright  Reuters Staff(Reuters)

LONDON (Reuters) – European shares were slightly higher in early trading on Friday as uncertainty over global trade rippled through markets and investors sought refuge in defensive sectors.

The pan-European STOXX 600 <.STOXX> was up 0.1 percent by 0724 GMT, while the exporter-heavy German DAX <.GDAXI> gained 0.2 percent and Britain’s’ FTSE 100 <.FTSE> was flat in percentage terms.

Europe’s benchmark was set to end the week with a 2.3 percent loss, its worst weekly performance since the end of March as worries over an escalating trade dispute between the United States and China, as well as weakness in emerging markets, have dented investors’ appetite for risk.

Shares in more defensive sectors, such as consumer stocks and telcos, were in demand as markets remained on edge after the deadline for a public comment period for proposed U.S. tariffs on an additional $200 billion worth of Chinese imports passed.

The timing of exactly when the tariffs would go into effect remained uncertain, however.

European autos <.SXAP>, which have been particularly sensitive to headlines around tariffs, were flat.

Tech stocks <.SX8P> were also flat, though chipmakers such as AMS <AMS.S> and Siltronic <WAFGn.DE> declined 1.1 percent and 3.7 percent respectively, continuing a decline seen in U.S. peers overnight.

A drop of as much as four percent in International Consolidated Airlines (IAG) <ICAG.L> shares weighed on the travel and leisure sector <.SXTP>, which retreated 0.2 percent.

British Airways, owned by IAG, said that it had suffered a data breach, with financial and personal data stolen from potentially hundreds of thousands of customers who booked online in recent weeks.

Elsewhere, British mid cap Greene King <GNK.L> saw its shares surge more than 13 percent after the pub operator reported a jump in beer sales in the first quarter thanks to a boost from the World Cup.

(Reporting by Kit Rees; Editing by Keith Weir)