(For a live blog on European stocks, type LIVE/ in an Eikon news window)
* Early gains evaporate, STOXX ends slightly higher
* Metal and mining companies lead market gains
* Banks fall on bets of interest rate cut (Updates to close)
By Sruthi Shankar
June 13 (Reuters) - Gains for metal and mining companies helped European stocks end slightly higher on Thursday, with concerns over an attack on tankers in the Gulf of Oman and continuing U.S.-China trade tensions sapping early enthusiasm among investors.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index .STOXX closed 0.16% higher having earlier climbed nearly half a percent aided by surge in telecom and oil stocks.
The surge in oil prices that had dominated morning trading after the tanker attacks faded by the close. O/R
Steve Sosnick, chief strategist at Interactive Brokers said that he was surprised there hadn't a wider market reaction to the attacks.
"Outside of the oil sector which is responding positively as it should, the rest of the sectors that don't rely on oil or consume oil are shrugging it off," he said.
Europe's benchmark index has risen about 3% this month, reversing roughly half of May's sell-off which was its worst monthly performance in more than two years.
The recovery has come largely on expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve and European Central Bank will take action to impede any slowdown in global growth in the wake of the trade tensions that have plagued markets and major economies over the past year.
U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday declined to set a deadline for levying addition tariffs on Chinese goods but called the relationship with Beijing 'testy'. talks broke down in May and China has not confirmed there will be any meeting with U.S. leaders on the sidelines of a G20 summit later this month.
Soft U.S. inflation data on Wednesday raised the number of Federal Reserve rate cuts priced in to the money market to three this year, although some analysts saw that as overdone.
Banking stocks .SX7P , which tend to suffer when expectations for interest rates fall, closed down slightly.
"What we've seen in the last couple of weeks has been predicated on investors focused on whether the Fed would resume rate cutting. If we go in with such a level of certainty and optimism, the outcome would be potentially disappointing," said Sosnick.
The biggest decliner on STOXX 600 was Aurubis AG NAFG.DE , down 8% after Europe's largest copper producer warned on profits and said its CEO would leave the company immediately. Plc FERG.L led the STOXX 600, jumping 5.9% after Activist fund Trian Fund Management LP said it had built up a 6% stake in the British plumbing products company, days after it reported disappointing results. of 1&1 Drillisch DRIG.DE and parent United Internet UTDI.DE , which had boosted the telecoms sector as investors cheered the results of Germany's 5G spectrum auction, finished just marginally higher. (additional reporting by Amy Caren Daniel and Medha Singh in Bengaluru; editing by Patrick Graham and Kirsten Donovan)
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