* STOXX 600 inches up 0.2 pct
* Oil stocks, miners recover
* Autos, banks under pressure
* Rotork boosted by upgrade (Adds details, closing prices)
By Kit Rees
LONDON, April 4 (Reuters) - The muted start to the second quarter continued on Tuesday with European shares ending a choppy session slightly in positive territory as gains in oil-related stocks and miners more than offset weakness in the autos sector.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index ended up 0.2 percent, while the resources-heavy FTSE 100 outperformed and was up 0.5 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.
Autos were the biggest sectoral losers, down 0.6 percent, with Schaeffler, Peugeot and Volkswagen leading the sector lower.
Figures for U.S. sales of new vehicles in March at major carmakers came in below market expectations while investor worries over the outlook for diesel vehicles has cast a cloud over European auto stocks.
Banking stocks were also under the cosh, falling 0.4 percent. Spain’s Banco Popular extended its slide from the previous session, taking losses over the past two sessions to more than 11 percent after the lender announced a restatement on Monday and said that its CEO is to step down.
Oil stocks were among standout sectoral gainers, however, rising around 1 percent, rebounding from losses in the previous session as oil prices rose to a near one-month high on expectations of a drawdown in U.S. crude and product inventories. Likewise, basic resources stocks rose 1.5 percent.
Broker action boosted individual names, with Rotork jumping 4.4 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 was another top riser, up 1.9 percent after launching three new phase two “proof-of-concept” studies. (Reporting by Kit Rees; Additional reporting by Danilo Masoni; Editing by Andrew Bolton)