By Devik Jain
(Reuters) -European stocks traded flat in a choppy session on Monday, weighed down by Credit Suisse shares, which slumped following a warning of "significant" losses from exiting positions after a U.S.-based hedge fund defaulted on margin calls.
The Swiss bank slipped 13.9% to a three-month low as it said the unnamed hedge fund defaulted on margin calls made last week by Credit Suisse and other banks and said that while it was "premature to quantify" the resulting loss, "it could be highly significant and material to our first quarter results"..
The wider financial services index was the worst performer, losing 1.5%, while the banks sector, which includes Deutsche Bank and UBS, also slipped 1.1%.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index edged 0.01% higher, mostly erasing opening gains with economy-linked mining, oil & gas and travel and leisure shares among the biggest decliners as French doctors warned a third wave of infections could soon overwhelm hospitals.
Chancellor Angela Merkel also pressed Germany's states on Sunday to step up efforts to curb rapidly rising coronavirus infections, and raised the possibility of introducing curfews to try to get a third wave under control.
"The spotlight will remain on the pandemic as investors are becoming increasingly worried at the rising number of cases in multiple regions, which in turn is raising the prospect of further restrictions and limits on economic activity," Deutsche Bank strategist Jim Reid said in a note.
The benchmark STOXX 600 has lagged its U.S. counterpart in the past six months as new lockdowns in the continent and a slower-than-expected vaccination programme dented the economic outlook for Europe.
The export-heavy German DAX rose 0.2% to an all-time high as data over the weekend showed annual profits at China's industrial firms surged in the first two months of 2021, highlighting a rebound in the country's manufacturing sector.
Among other stocks, Hugo Boss slipped 0.4% after German fashion house got caught in a concerted boycott by Chinese celebrities and consumers over Western accusations of forced labour in Xinjiang.
Poland's CD Projekt jumped 8.3% to the top of STOXX 600 index after plans about the studio's downloadable content for its Cyberpunk 2077 game leaked on Reddit.
Gains in defensive sectors such as food & beverage <.SX3P utilities, media, which tend to decouple from the economic cycle, offered some support to the market.
(Reporting by Devik Jain in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)