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LONDON: European stock markets advanced Monday, with traders focusing on slowing Chinese growth and a potential blockbuster takeover in the consumer healthcare sector.

Benchmark oil contract Brent North Sea briefly reached the highest level for more than three years at $86.71 per barrel, adding to strong inflation concerns.

The dollar was up against major rivals, while Wall Street was closed Monday for a US public holiday.

While the fast-spreading Omicron coronavirus variant continues to cast a shadow across trading floors, the focus has been more on the US central bank’s plans to raise interest rates to fight surging inflation.

“As we head into 2022, we believe that the post-pandemic bull market remains broadly intact,” said Bank of Singapore analyst Eli Lee.

“Historically, bull markets do not end at the beginning of rate hike cycles, and positive trends in global economic growth and earnings continue to be positive fundamental drivers for the market.”

Consumer goods giant Unilever on Monday said it would press on with a bid for the consumer health care unit owned by pharmaceutical groups Glaxo Smith Kline and Pfizer after an offer of £50 billion ($68 billion) was refused. GSK’s share price shot to the top of London’s benchmark FTSE 100 index in trading Monday, climbing 3.7 percent.

Unilever was the biggest FTSE faller, slumping 7.8 percent.

Mainland China shares were given some support by news that the country’s central bank had cut interest rates for the first time since the height of the pandemic last year as officials look to kickstart stuttering growth.

Data on Monday showed that China — the world’s number-two economy — expanded by a decade-high 8.1 percent last year.

However it slowed in the final quarter of 2021, hit by virus lockdowns around the country and weakness in the crucial property sector.

Elsewhere on the corporate front, shares in Renault were modestly higher in Paris after the French auto giant said its sales fell for a third year running owing to electronic chip shortages and the impact of its new commercial policy.

Credit Suisse fell almost 1.8 percent after the Swiss bank’s chairman resigned less than a year after taking the reins following reports he had broken Covid quarantine rules.

Antonio Horta-Osorio’s immediate departure adds to the bank’s troubles after it was last year rocked by links to the multi-billion-dollar meltdowns at financial firms Greensill and Archegos.

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