By Barbara Kollmeyer And Shri Navaratnam
Europe's core stock markets closed mostly higher Friday, boosted by strength in auto shares but limited by weakness in banks.
The Stoxx Europe 600 index closed up 0.1% at 276.19, its highest close since late September 2008. It was the fourth day in a row that the index achieved a multiyear closing high.
Stock trading was also influenced by a decision by the People's Bank of China to raise the required reserve ratio by 0.5 percentage point, effective Dec. 20. The news came after Asian markets had closed, but expectations of a rate increase in Beijing, following a robust trade report, weighed on most regional indexes. Chinese shares, however, bucked the downturn.
Autos were in the spotlight in Europe after Germany's Volkswagen /zigman2/quotes/206736865/delayed DE:VOW +1.31% reported a 12.7% rise in vehicle deliveries for the year through November.
In FRANKFURT , Volkswagen closed up 3.9%, while BMW /zigman2/quotes/209548467/delayed DE:BMW +2.04% added 3.9% and Daimler /zigman2/quotes/205332368/delayed DE:DAI +0.80% gained 3%, helping to lift the DAX 30 index back above 7000 to its highest close since June 2008. The index rose 0.6% to 7006.17 for a weekly gain of 0.8%.
In PARIS , Peugeot /zigman2/quotes/202678611/composite UG -0.72% and Renault gained 1% and 0.8%, respectively, but the French CAC 40 index closed down 0.02% at 3857.35, as financial stocks fell. Société Générale slipped 0.7%, and AXA fell 1.1%. The index added 2.9% for the week.
In LONDON , the FTSE 100 index rose 0.1% to 5812.95, for a weekly gain of 1.2%. However, Standard Chartered fell 2.6%, a day after the bank warned of rising costs.
Other European banking stocks were also mostly lower as the Committee of European Banking Supervisors finalized its guidelines on banker pay and bonuses, which include a requirement that top earners receive no more than 20% of their bonus in cash up front. Barclays /zigman2/quotes/206581728/composite BCS +1.36% dropped 1.4% and Credit Suisse /zigman2/quotes/202835784/composite CS +0.96% fell 1.3%.
Among other big movers, German personal-care products maker Beiersdorf /zigman2/quotes/210479173/delayed DE:BEI +1.79% fell 5.2% after lowering its earnings outlook for 2010 for the second time this year.
The European Commission launched an investigation into possible cartel activities by a number of cement manufacturers in Europe. While it didn't name the companies involved, Switzerland-based Holcim /zigman2/quotes/200284171/delayed CH:HOLN +0.27% and Germany's HeidelbergCement /zigman2/quotes/202418791/delayed DE:HEI +0.19% were among those that said they were being investigated. HeidelbergCement said an internal investigation didn't reveal any malpractice. Holcim declined to comment.
HeidelbergCement was off 2.5% while Holcim was up 0.5%.
In SHANGHAI , banks and insurers were prime gainers amid hopes that higher rates would enhance their profitability. Ping An Insurance climbed 2.9% and China Life Insurance rose 1.9%, while China Construction Bank /zigman2/quotes/208058581/delayed CN:601939 -0.16% added 1.1%. The Shanghai Composite index advanced 1.1% to 2841.04, leaving it little changed for the week.
In TOKYO , the Nikkei Stock Average fell 0.7% to 10211.95, after briefly hitting a seven-month high, but managed a 0.3% weekly gain, its sixth in a row. The mood was cautious, said Yoshinori Nagano , senior strategist at Daiwa Asset Management, as investors speculated that China would raise rates over the weekend.
Exporters declined. Nikon /zigman2/quotes/203281219/delayed JP:7731 +1.96% dropped 3.1%, and Sony and Advantest both shed 1.6%.
JVC Kenwood Holdings /zigman2/quotes/201802771/delayed JP:6632 +1.00% tumbled 5% after Japan's Financial Services Agency fined the company for falsifying documents.
The Topix insurance subindex was the best-performing sector. Dai-ichi Life Insurance gained 2.1% and Sony Financial Holdings rose 3.7% after Deutsche Securities issued a "buy" rating on both stocks.
Write to Barbara Kollmeyer at Barbara.Kollmeyer@dowjones.com