European stocks close flat after a choppy session

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LONDON (Reuters) – European stocks closed flat on Wednesday at the end of a choppy session during which hawkish comments by the European Central Bank lifted the euro and bond yields.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index ended the day unchanged with bourses closing in different directions across the continent.

Germany’s was up 0.3 percent, Paris’ CAC 40 was down 0.1 percent and London’s FTSE up 0.3 percent.

The ECB’s chief economist said robust growth was making the central bank increasingly confident that inflation is on its way back to target, raising the likelihood it may use a meeting next week to reveal more about the end of its bond-buying program.

That prospect pushed bond yields across the euro zone higher, making stocks chosen for their generous dividends less attractive in comparison.

The rise of the euro to a 10-day high also weighed on European companies which have large revenues in dollars.

Consumer groups L’Oreal, Unilever and Imperial Brands  were the worst performers among blue chips, losing between 2 percent and 2.5 percent.

Banking stocks .SX7P, which typically benefit from higher interest rates, rose 0.7 percent with Italian lenders recovering further from political instability in the country.

Commodities stocks .SXPP rose close to 2 percent due to strong copper prices while the recent rally in tech stocks .SX8P continued its course, adding 0.2 percent.

Among individual stocks, RPC was the biggest faller, tumbling about 12 percent after the plastic packaging leader said it was looking to sell assets.