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AMSTERDAM/LONDON: European stocks ended lower on Thursday, even as bank shares hit 14-month highs on strong quarterly earnings, as a rise in euro zone bond yields saw investors lock in profits at near-record levels.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index fell 0.3% to 438.77, coming further off a record peak of 443.61 hit last week.

Traders cited the pullback to investors taking in profits after “stellar results”. The STOXX 600 had surged to record highs on anticipation of a strong earnings season, as well as optimism over steady COVID-19 vaccination programs.

Bank stocks were the best performers for the day, as Standard Chartered added another notch to a series of strong earnings reports this week, including those from HSBC and Santander.

Automobile stocks led losses on Thursday with a 2.6% fall after US carmaker Ford said a global semiconductor shortage may slash second-quarter production by half.

Still, European earnings are seen jumping 71.3% in the first quarter, according to Refinitiv IBES data. Almost a third of the STOXX 600 companies have reported so far, and a higher-than-usual 68% have topped profit estimates.

Consumer goods giant Unilever rose 3.3% as a pick-up in home cooking and a strong economic recovery in China drove better-than-expected quarterly sales.

Finnish telecom network equipment maker Nokia surged 8.4% to the top of the STOXX 600, as growth in sales of network and 5G equipment boosted its earnings.

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