(Reuters) – European stocks held steady on Thursday, trading just below record highs as strong earnings from a clutch of insurers and M&A activity in UK helped offset a decline in miners.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index was flat in morning trade after eight consecutive days of record gains.
British insurer Aviva rose 1.8% after it said it would return at least 4 billion pounds ($5.5 billion) to shareholders, while Zurich Insurance Group AG added 2.2% on reporting a 60% jump in first-half business operating profit.
Dutch insurer Aegon NV jumped 6.5% on posting a much better than expected second-quarter earnings.
Dragging down miners, UK-listed shares of global miner Rio Tinto tumbled 6.1% on trading ex-dividend.
Cineworld Group rose 7.2% after it said it was considering a listing of itself or a partial listing of its movie chain Regal on Wall Street.
Stock Spirits Group jumped 42.5% funds as funds affiliated with private-equity firm CVC agreed to take over the London-listed vodka maker in a deal valuing it at 767 million pounds ($1.1 billion).
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