By Sarah Turner
European shares ended Thursday's session in positive territory, as gains from retail and energy stocks offset a lower insurance sector.
The Dow Jones Stoxx 600 Index was flat at 306.92, while the Dow Jones Euro Stoxx Index climbed 0.1% to 322.77. The Dow Jones Euro Stoxx 50 Index rose 0.1% to 3510.4, while the Dow Jones Stoxx 50 Index increased 0.1% to 3349.1.
The German DAX-30 Index ended up 0.4% to 5286.75, France's CAC-40 Index added 0.2% to 4669.93, while the U.K.'s FTSE-100 Index ended little changed, up 0.04% to 5531.1.
German retailer KarstadtQuelle helped to boost retailers by finishing 13.9% higher after saying it's mulling the sale or initial public offering of its real-estate operations. The group also said it aims to pay down debt to less than €2.8 billion by the end of the year thanks to various restructuring moves that have reduced liabilities by €1 billion.
Insurers like Munich Re and AXA were weaker Thursday after a brokerage downgrade, while Swiss Re was in focus after saying it intends to launch a 1 billion Swiss francs convertible bond to help pay for its purchase of General Electric /zigman2/quotes/208495069/composite GE +0.44% 's reinsurance division.
J.P. Morgan made sweeping changes to its European insurance ratings Thursday, cutting Munich Re, AXA and Generali /zigman2/quotes/203793198/delayed IT:G +0.09% to "neutral". Munich Re lost 0.4%, AXA declined 0.8% and Generali declined 0.04%.
However, both Skandia Insurance and Old Mutual bucked the lower insurance sector trend by ended higher after a report emerged in the Dagens Industri newspaper that Skandia has given in to a takeover bid by Old Mutual. Old Mutual shares ended up 2.7%, while Skandia shares rose 2.6%.
U.S. stocks turned higher in morning trade Thursday, modestly extending a rally that has endured for nearly five weeks, but enthusiasm was curbed by an uncertain outlook on the housing market from Toll Brothers /zigman2/quotes/201912487/composite TOL +0.61% .
Mobile phone company Nokia ended 1.9% higher in its home market after Texas Instruments /zigman2/quotes/202237907/composite TXN +0.36% - which makes chips for the company - raised the lower end of its profit forecast.
Royal Bank of Scotland, Europe's second-largest bank, finished down 1.1% after it said it will meet analysts' estimates for second-half earnings growth despite narrower margins.
Another casualty in the U.K. banking sector was Asia-focused Standard Chartered /zigman2/quotes/200125072/delayed UK:STAN -0.74% , which added to Wednesday's declines by ended 1.7% lower.
European M&A news was headed up by Virgin Mobile, after its board rejected U.K. cable operator NTL's $1.4 billion offer, although majority owner Richard Branson on Thursday said a deal isn't far away.
Online gambling company PartyGaming ended 16.5% higher in London after it said that it has seen strong current trading in both poker and casino for the two months to Nov. 30 and that fiscal-year earnings before interest, tax, amortization and depreciation as well as revenue are likely to be ahead of market expectations.
And French spirits group Remy Cointreau rose 6% after it said that first-half net income more than doubled due to price increases, the refocusing of marketing investment, and cost controls. Looking ahead, Remy Cointreau said it still expects double-digit organic growth in full-year operating profit.
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