As European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi prepares to deliver the keynote address at the European Banking Congress in Frankfurt on Friday, the European equity markets continued to exhibit strong performance.

European stocks have enjoyed strong performance in 2013. The Russell Developed Europe Index has returned 19.8% year-to-date and is up 4.3% in the fourth quarter (returns as of November 19).

"Core" as well as "peripheral" European countries have seen strong performance. Germany is up 7.0% in the fourth quarter and 22.6% year-to-date, while Italy (+9.4), Ireland (+8.0%) and Norway (+7.5%) have been particularly strong in the fourth quarter (country constituents of the Russell Developed Europe Index as of November 19).

Wouter Sturkenboom, investment strategist with Russell Investments Europe, said: "Although European equity markets have underperformed U.S. equity markets this year, possibly due to concerns regarding disappointing GDP growth, recent ECB easing appears to have had a favourable impact on prices. Investors will be watching Mario Draghi’s public comments later this week to try to discern how the European Central Bank will move forward with respect to monetary policy as well as the asset quality review and bank stress test. We believe the latter is particularly important because bank lending continues to be a concern, holding back economic growth at a time Europe needs all the growth it can get."

The Russell Global Index measures the performance of the global equity market based on all investable equity securities, and is constructed to provide a comprehensive and unbiased barometer for the global segment.

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