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LONDON: European stock markets closed lower Friday, the final trading session of 2021 -- a year of strong gains overall as economies recovered despite ongoing restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

London's benchmark FTSE 100 index fell 0.3 percent in a shortened trading session ahead of the New Year.

It shot up more than 14 percent over 2021.

The Paris CAC 40 index rocketed almost 29 percent this year, its best showing for more than 20 years.

Germany's DAX had ended its year Thursday, having surged nearly 16 percent in 2021.

"As we look ahead into 2022, the questions around inflation, growth and the... pandemic remain with us, while the monetary policy outlook is clouded by the potential for more (central bank) rate hikes throughout the coming months," noted Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG trading group.

"Overall it still seems sensible to expect further gains for stocks, but with perhaps less of the exuberance we saw in 2021."

FTSE 100 posts biggest annual gains in five years

The euro dropped more than seven percent against the dollar in 2021, its worst showing for six years, as the Federal Reserve scales back its huge stimulus programme and signals rate hikes in the coming months.

Oil prices dropped around two percent Friday, having surged more than 50 percent this year on a strong rebound in crude demand after a dismal pandemic-hit 2020.

In Asia, Hong Kong's main stocks index finished with gains Friday, as surging Chinese tech shares helped it shrug off a weak overnight lead from Wall Street.

The benchmark Hang Seng Index closed up by more than one percent, on a day when many Asian bourses -- Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand -- were closed for public holidays.

The Hang Seng has been the world's poorest-performing major gauge in 2021, down about 14 percent.

It follows a tough year for many Chinese tech giants, which have been battered by Beijing's drive to rein in their influence.

South African stocks ease on Friday but end the year up 21%

More modest 2022

Global stocks struggled to make gains in the final week of the year as markets weighed government efforts to limit the health and economic effects of the latest fast-spreading Covid-19 wave.

The Omicron variant has led to record new caseloads of Covid-19 worldwide, but markets have remained sanguine in light of research suggesting the health effects will be milder than with earlier variants.

"Worries about the Omicron variant have receded, but the speed of its spread is tempering sentiment," analysts at Charles Schwab wrote.

And Jason Pride, chief investment officer for private wealth at Glenmede, told Bloomberg Television:

"As we look forward to 2022 the gains are probably going to be more modest than they've been in the past year or so."

Offering reason for optimism, he added: "We're still in the recovery from the pandemic."

Key figures around 1300 GMT

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.3 percent at 7,384.54 points (close)

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 0.3 percent at 7,153.03 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.2 percent at 4,298.41 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: closed for public holiday

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: UP 1.2 percent at 23,397.67 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.6 percent at 3,639.78 (close)

New York - S&P 500: DOWN 0.3 percent at 4,778.73 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1328 from $1.1320

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3483 from $1.3499

Euro/pound: UP at 84.00 pence from 83.85

Dollar/yen: UP at 115.11 yen from 115.09 yen

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 1.9 percent at $78.05 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 1.9 percent at $75.51 per barrel

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