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Defensive sectors lift European shares after two-day rally

European stocks inched higher on Wednesday after marking their strongest two-day gain in more than a year, with defensive stocks rising as investors weighed the effectiveness of existing vaccines against the Omicron coronavirus variant.


After jumping 3.8% over the past two days, the region-wide STOXX 600 index nudged 0.1% higher in early deals.


Germany's BioNTech, which makes COVID-19 vaccines with Pfizer (NYSE:PFE), fell 6.3% after a study showed that the Omicron variant can partially evade protection from two doses of their COVID-19 vaccine.


Sectors considered more stable during times of uncertainty such as healthcare and food & beverages were the top gainers.


L'Oreal rose 1.1% after consumer giant Nestle said it would cut its stake in the French cosmetics brand by selling shares worth 8.9 billion euros ($10 billion) to about 20%.


Shares in Nestle rose 1.6% to trade just short of record highs.


Travel shares fell as tour operator TUI's UK-listed shares slumped 5.4% after it posted an annual loss of over 2 billion euros ($2.26 billion).


German meal-kit company Hellofresh slid 8.3% after an underwhelming outlook for 2022 earnings.


Chipmakers Infineon (OTC:IFNNY) Technologies dropped 2.9% and STMicroelectronics slipped 1.3% after Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) downgraded the stocks to "equal-weight".

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