European stocks were broadly flat at the end of a volatile session on Thursday, following a bloodbath in insurance stocks and a pullback in the banking sector.
The FTSE 100 closed higher in London by 0.08% at 7,195, the DAX was up by 0.01% to 11,584 in Germany while the CAC gained 0.03% to settle at 4,900. The FTSE MIB in Italy was the standout performer after the index rose by 0.27% to close at 9,488.
Life insurers were the primary weight around the ankles of markets in London and Germany as bond markets appeared to check a near 10-week selloff. On the same note, banks slipped toward the back end of the session after having gotten off to a firm start during the morning hours.
Oil and gas stocks were mixed, with half of the London sector rising but majors falling even after U.S commercial crude inventories saw their biggest weekly drawdown since September. Brent crude dropped by around 0.5% to $ 56.17 during the session.
European currencies were broadly higher against the greenback as the U.S. currency ceded further ground following December's advance. The pound gained more than 100 points to trade back above the 1.2400 handle while the euro gained 50 points to change hands around the 1.0600 level.
Bond markets checked their selloff with yields coming down across the curve in both Germany and the U.K. The 10-year bond in the U.K. fell by 2 basis points to 1.38% while German yields fell more than 3 basis points to 0.23%.
The French 10-year yield remained broadly flat at 0.80% as investors shunned the Gallic market following Wednesday's comments on the redenomination of debts by presidential candidate Marine Le Pen.
In individual stocks Rolls Royce (RYCEY) was the top decliner in London after analysts at J.P. Morgan, previously one of the most bullish brokers covering the stock, cut their price target and reiterated their neutral stance. Rolls shares were down more than 4% for the session.
Standard Life was the second-largest decliner, also dropping more than 4%, as investors responded to price action in the bond market. Germany's Munich Re was among the biggest stocks down on the DAX, off more than 2% for the session.
In France, Societe Generale (SCGLY) was the top decliner, down 2.4%, as the banking sector pulled back from recent peaks -- with investors scrutinizing SocGen's valuation given that French banks are now trading at a premium to their European peer group.