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Europe closes higher as oil pops and banks rally

Alexandra Gibbs
Europe closes higher as oil pops and banks rally

European equities ended the day higher Friday, on the back of a positive trading session in Asia, a rally in banking stocks and a tick-up in oil prices.

The pan-European STOXX 600 (^STOXX) came off session highs to close up some 1.2 percent, with nearly every sector posting solid gains.

U.K. FTSE 100 (FTSE International: .FTSE) popped around 1 percent, while the French CAC (Euronext Paris: .FCHI) was up 0.7 percent, and Germany's DAX (^GDAXI) rose 0.6 percent.

In the U.S. indexes were down with the Dow Jones Industrial Average off 0.7 percent and the broader S&P500 down by the same amount.

Markets have been on edge in recent days, ahead of next Thursday when Britain will vote to either stay or leave the European Union. Recent polls have shown sentiment on the debate is divided.

Campaigning for the referendum, however, was halted Thursday, after a pro-EU British lawmaker, Jo Cox, was killed while meeting with constituents. Police said they arrested a 52-year-old man in the attack on Cox, but did not know of a motive for the killing. Shortly after the news broke on Thursday, the U.K. sterling (Exchange:GBP=) rallied from a two-month low against the euro (Exchange:EUR=) and rose versus the dollar (Exchange:USD=). According to Reuters, analysts have noted that the death may sway public opinion towards the "Remain" campaign.

"Certainly people are talking about the possibility that this [Cox's murder] does influence the Brexit vote in favor of Remain. It is a tragic event all around. There is a sense; there is an immediate emotional reaction….It definitely is seen as part of the story, the recovery of risk," said Alan Ruskin, global co-head of FX research at Deutsche Bank.

On the oil front , prices advanced follow several negative sessions, as markets took a breather from concerns surrounding the U.K.'s referendum debate. Around the open, Brent and U.S. crude posted sharp gains, trading around $48.20 and $47 respectively.

Energy and mining stocks ticked higher, on the back of a weaker dollar and a rise in commodity prices, with Tullow Oil (London Stock Exchange: TLW-GB), Royal Dutch Shell (London Stock Exchange: RDSA-GB), Anglo American (London Stock Exchange: AAL-GB) and BHP Billiton (London Stock Exchange: BLT-GB) traded sharply higher. Meanwhile, Randgold Resources (London Stock Exchange: RRS-GB) and Fresnillo (London Stock Exchange: FRES-GB) were both near the bottom of Europe's benchmarks, despite precious metal prices posting gains during trade.

Sentiment was initially boosted in Europe following a positive trade by Asia markets . Japan's Nikkei 225 in particular posted gains of above 1 percent, on the back if a relatively weaker yen (Exchange:JPY=).

After a poor trading session on Thursday, banks rallied during trade. Banks (STOXX:.SX7P-CH) had come under pressure this week following concerns of a potential "Brexit", however as concerns eased overnight, the sector jumped 3 percent.

One key mover in the banking space was Unicredit, up over 5 percent on the back of a Reuters report, which—citing sources—suggested Italy's biggest lender was expecting to draw up a shortlist of three CEO candidates by the end of this month. This propped up fellow Italian banks, with BMPS (Milan Stock Exchange: BMPS-IT) and Banca Popolare di Milano (Milan Stock Exchange: PMI-IT) trading 5.4 percent and 9.6 percent respectively.

The travel and leisure was one of Europe's best performing sectors, up over 2 percent, with London-listed firms Thomas Cook (London Stock Exchange: TCG-GB), Restaurant Group (London Stock Exchange: RTN-GB), IAG and TUI (London Stock Exchange: TUI-GB) all posting gains between 3 percent and 7percent.

CNBC's Saheli Roy Choudhury contributed to this report.

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