European stocks kick off 2022 at record highs

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Jan 3 (Reuters) - European shares hit all-time highs on Monday, starting the year in an upbeat mood on hopes of steady economic recovery despite soaring cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index .STOXX was up 0.6% at 490.76 points, as of 0821 GMT, surpassing its November record high of 490.58.

The benchmark recorded a 22.4% jump in 2021, its second-best yearly performance since 2009, as elevated flow of economic stimulus, earnings growth and steady vaccine rollouts helped investors pour into stock markets.

Bourses in Germany .GDAXI , France .FCHI , Italy .FTMIB and Spain .IBEX were up between 0.6% and 0.8%, while London markets .FTSE were closed.

Among sectors, automakers .SXAP led morning gains with a 1.3% rise after monthly sales reports from several global automakers.

German airlines Lufthansa LHAG.DE jumped 5% after Citi upgraded the stock rating to "buy" from "sell".

Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips

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