MILAN/LONDON European shares are expected to make single-digit gains this year and in early 2018 as a brighter economic outlook and cheap valuations trump political concerns, a Reuters poll found.
Wednesday's poll of brokers, fund managers and analysts taken over the past week predicts a rise of between about 5 percent and 6 percent for the STOXX 600 and Euro STOXX 50 indexes in 2017 with yet more gains next year.
"The better economic and inflation outlook should make the region strongly appealing," Societe Generale's head of European equity strategy in Paris, Roland Kaloyan, said.
"Euro zone equities, meanwhile, are trading at a 47-percent discount to their U.S. counterparts on price to book value, while the euro has also significantly weakened," he said.
Uncertainty persists ahead of France's presidential election in April and May and Germany's national vote in September with Europe's political future after the shock Brexit vote last year fuelling fears of a populist wave across the region.
But the worst concerns appear to be easing, as signs grow that Europe's economic recovery is gaining strength.
The STOXX 600 and Euro STOXX 50 indexes are seen at 380 and 3,500 points respectively by the end of 2017, an upward revision from estimates collected last quarter when they were expected to reach 366 points and 3,255 points.
The indexes are seen rising to 400 and 3,690 points by the middle of 2018, according to estimates collected in this poll.
"Populist momentum is likely to falter by mid-2017," ETX Capital senior market analyst, Neil Wilson, said.
The pan-European benchmark and the euro zone's index of the top 50 firms have both risen between 4 percent and 5 percent this year, broadly in line with gains seen in the United States.
Financial stocks are expected to be a major driver behind the rally in European stocks in the coming months, in what should favour indexes such as Italy's FTSE MIB and Spain's IBEX, which are heavily geared towards banks.
The banking sector is seen best positioned to reap the benefits of rising interest rates and inflation after years of sluggish growth, exacerbated more recently by the European Central Bank's ultra-loose monetary policy.
Poll medians predict France's CAC making 3 percent gains this year, Germany's DAX 4.5 percent and Italy's FTSE MIB surging 10 percent.
Lex van Dam Trading Academy's global investment strategist, James Helliwell, sees European equities as "the buying opportunity of the decade".
"There remains an 'anxiety premium' to be realised over fears of a euro zone breakup, whilst the global reflation trade and broadening global capital flows will benefit all of the major European indices in 2017," he said.
(Other stories from the Reuters global stock markets poll:)
(Additional reporting by Elisa Anzolin in Milan, Helen Reid in London, and Vartika Sahu and Hari Kishan in Bengaluru; Editing by Louise Ireland)