(For a Reuters live blog on U.S., UK and European stock markets, click LIVE/ or type LIVE/ in a news window)
Nov 25 (Reuters) - European shares held steady near nine-month highs on Wednesday as a relaxation of coronavirus restrictions in the region and growing hopes that a vaccine would soon be ready kept sentiment afloat.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index .STOXX edged up 0.3%, with banking stocks .SX7P rising 1.6% after a report suggested that the European Central Bank could signal a lift on a ban on bank dividends next year. stocks .SXEP continued to surge as crude prices extended a rally on hopes of a quick recovery in fuel demand.
Germany and the four nations of the United Kingdom unveiled plans to allow gatherings with limitations for Christmas, while France will start easing its lockdown this weekend after a sharp drop in new infections and hospitalizations. blue-chip FTSE 100 index .FTSE rose 0.4%, while France's benchmark CAC 40 index .FCHI climbed 0.4% in early trade.
In company news, Virgin Money (LON: VM ) UK VMUK.L dropped 4.8% after the lender reported a slump in annual profit as it took a 501 million pound ($669.54 million) impairment charge against an expected surge in bad loans. ($1 = 0.7483 pounds)
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