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Euro Stocks End Lower on Inflation Concerns

European stocks closed slightly lower Friday, as hopes for a near-term interest rate cut from the European Central Bank diminished on signs of growing inflation pressures in the euro zone. Declines in banking and utility stocks also helped drag the major indexes into the red.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index closed unofficially down 0.5 percent at 1,264.68 points. But the index rose 3.1 percent on the week -- its first weekly rise in the last five weeks and its largest weekly increase since early December.

Oil stocks also fell as crude prices eased more than $1 a barrel as flows through Iraq's pipeline system were restored after disruption by a bomb attack a day earlier. BP was down 1.8 percent and Total lost 0.6 percent.

Banks were among the biggest negative weights on the index. HBOS was down 3.1 percent and UBS eased 2.4 percent.

And shares of E.ON fell 2.8 percent, after the world's largest utility said 2008 profit would come out at the lower end of its predicted range.

Looking to the housing sector, the rate of home-price growth in Britain rose at its slowest pace in 12 years in February, according to the country's leading building society.

Also in the UK, pub group Punch Taverns said it was withdrawing its bid proposal for rival Mitchells & Butlers, but that it was still considering a joint offer with a third party.

And the newly opened Terminal 5 at London’s Heathrow Airport spent its second day in chaos, with dozens of flights being cancelled and facing a public relations disaster. Shares of British Airways, the sole carrier of Terminal 5, fell 2.9 percent.

-- Reuters contributed to this report

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