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European stocks run out of steam after ECB; energy shares weigh


By Sruthi Shankar and Amal S

(Reuters) - European stocks lost steam heading into the close on Thursday, weighed down by oil and real estate shares, while the European Central Bank stuck to its monetary policy but warned a surge in COVID-19 infections posed a risk to the euro zone's recovery.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index ended flat after rising as much as 0.8% earlier in the session.

Energy majors BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Total each fell more than 2% as oil prices slipped after industry data showed a surprise increase in U.S. crude inventories. [O/R]

The ECB offered few surprises after it kept its policy unchanged, while its president Christine Lagarde warned that a new rise in cases and the ensuing restrictions to activity would dampen activity in the near term and said the ECB was prepared to provide even more support for the economy if needed.

"Lagarde touched upon the mixed positive and negative developments but concluded that there were no reasons to change the broader assessment from the December projections," Carsten Brzeski, global head of macro at ING, wrote in a note.

Brzeski, however, noted the central bank's projection in December of 0.6% GDP growth quarter-on-quarter in the first quarter "is a tad optimistic."

Euro zone stocks came off session highs to close 0.1% lower with the euro strengthening against the dollar, while euro zone banks slid 0.6%.

European shares rallied to near 11-month highs earlier on Thursday after as investors bet on major stimulus from new U.S. President Joe Biden, who signed half a dozen executive orders including a U.S. return to the international Paris Agreement to fight climate change.

Shares in wind turbine maker Vestas, renewable energy group Siemens Gamesa and offshore wind group Orsted rose between 1.4% and 3.9%.

French shopping centre operators Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield and Klepierre lost 8.4% and 6.5%, respectively, dragging down the real estate index by 1.5%.

Tech stocks jumped 1.6% as their U.S. peers rallied, while British software maker Sage Group jumped 4.9% after posting higher quarterly recurring revenue.

Spain's Bankinter gained 4.3% as it forecast higher lending income and loan growth across its markets.

Swiss online pharmacy chain Zur Rose Group AG climbed 8.9% after it posted full-year revenue above analysts' expectations.

Britain's IG tumbled almost 9% after it announced plans to buy U.S. trading platform tastytrade for $1 billion.

(Reporting by Sruthi Shankar and Amal S in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

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