The last time European equities rallied this much in the first half of the year, Geri Halliwell had just quit the Spice Girls and Google was yet to officially launch its search engine.

Boosted by a strong initial rebound and recent dovish comments by central bankers, the Stoxx Europe 600 Index has advanced 13 per cent, poised for its best returns in the six-month period since 1998. The gains have come even as European equities remain the most popular short trade for investors around the world. The region’s stock funds have bled money almost non-stop this year, and strategists are bearish on the outlook for the rest of 2019.

A broad brushstroke of optimism across global markets about more stimulus from the European Central Bank and potential U.S. rate cuts has helped the region’s stocks rebound from a May sell-off. That’s against a background of lingering concerns about a resolution in the trade standoff between the U.S. and China.

Investors are pricing in a virtual certainty the Federal Reserve will lower rates at next month’s meeting, something that usually bodes well for European equities, according to Citigroup Inc. strategists. Since the early 1970s, the region’s stocks have on average returned nearly 10 per cent in the six months following the first Fed rate decrease and just over 15% in the 12 months post-cut, they wrote in a note last week.