UPDATE 2-European shares eke out in directionless choppy session

  • Reuters
  • Stock Market News
UPDATE 2-European shares eke out in directionless choppy session
Credit: © Reuters.

* Banks hit by money laundering report

* Eurofins fall after results

* Beijing cuts GDP growth target for 2019 (Adds data, quote)

By Josephine Mason, Danilo Masoni and Julien Ponthus

LONDON, March 5 (Reuters) - European stocks edged higher at the close of a choppy and directionless session where indexes hovered around the flotation mark in the lack of news about Sino/U.S. trade talk.

The pan-European STOXX 600 .STOXX closed up 0.2 percent after trading in the red for part of the day, extending a three-day rally into four straight days of gains.

"There seemed to be no overriding theme to Tuesday's trading", wrote Connor Campbell, an analyst at Spreadex.

Noting buoyant U.S. family homes sales and positive data for the services sector, Stephane Ekolo, an equity strategist at Tradition in London, said "positive datapoint in the U.S. somehow gave a bit of respite".

Equities also briefly perked up after euro-zone data showed business activity accelerated more than expected last month, helping offset downbeat news from China. Premier Li Keqiang cut the government's 2019 growth target to 6.0-6.5 percent, as expected, and promised more stimulus, including cuts in taxes, increases in infrastructure investment, and lending to small firms. autos and suppliers .SXAP were the worst performers, losing 0.5 percent.

It was also a bad day for European banks .SX7P which lost 0.4 percent with shares in Austria's Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) RBIV.VI falling more than 12 percent.

The share price falls followed a report by a collective of European news outlets called the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) which was based on what it said were leaked documents detailing transactions worth more than $470 billion sent in 1.3 million transfers from 233,000 companies.

Among individual movers, Eurofins EUFI.PA fell close to 10 percent after the food and biopharma product testing firm said it would curb its M&A activity in a bid to shore up margins and cash flow.

Evonik EVKn.DE shares rose 4.3 percent after the German chemicals group reported a slight rise in profits thanks to its coating additives and engineering plastics division.

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