LONDON The muted start to the second quarter continued on Tuesday as European shares struggled for direction in choppy trade on Tuesday, weighed by weakness in the autos sector though gains in oil-related stocks and miners provided some support.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index was flat in percentage terms at 0902 GMT, while the resources-heavy FTSE 100 .FTSE outperformed and was up 0.4 percent.
"Heading into Q2 there’s a lot on the table. There’s a lot of currency risk going on at the moment, which is causing a bit of market uncertainty, especially in the FTSE and the Euro STOXX 50,” said John Moore, trader at Berkeley Capital, referring to Europe's blue chip index .STOXX50E.
Autos .SXAP were the biggest sectoral losers, down 1.4 percent, with Schaeffler (SHA_p.DE), Peugeot (PEUP.PA) and BMW (BMWG.DE) leading the sector lower.
Figures for U.S. sales of new vehicles in March at major carmarkers came in below market expectations while investor worries over the outlook for diesel vehicles has cast a cloud over European auto stocks.
Banking stocks .SX7P were also under the cosh, falling 0.5 percent. Spain's Banco Popular (POP.MC) extended its slide from the previous session, taking losses over the past two sessions to more than 13 percent after the lender announced a restatement on Monday and said that its CEO is to step down.
Oil stocks .SXEP were among standout sectoral gainers, however, rising around 0.3 percent, rebounding from losses in the previous session. Likewise, basic resources stocks .SXPP rose 0.3 percent.
Broker action boosted individual names, with Rotork (ROR.L) jumping 4.6 percent after JP Morgan raised the valve-control systems maker to "overweight" from "neutral".
"We believe the group's earnings power has increased and earnings can significantly exceed previous peaks," analysts at JP Morgan said in a note.
"Our analysis increases our confidence that end-market headwinds are easing, the group remains well positioned to benefit from the recovery and growth opportunities exist outside of just oil & gas capex."
Belgium biotech firm Galapagos (GLPG.AS) was another top riser, up 2.1 percent after launching three new phase two "proof-of-concept" studies.
Stocks with South African exposure, such as Old Mutual (OML.L) and Investec (INVP.L), were also down, falling 2.5 percent and 1.8 respectively after S&P Global Ratings cut the country's credit rating to sub-investment grade with a negative outlook, sending the rand lower.
(Reporting by Kit Rees; editing by Mark Heinrich)