European shares flat as financials, miners weigh; Flutter rises

* STOXX trading just 2.6% below all-time high

* Danone eyes best day in more than 4 months

* Flutter lifts travel and leisure stocks (Adds comments, updates prices throughout)

By Shreyashi Sanyal

March 15 (Reuters) - European stocks ended flat on Monday, with declines led by financial and mining stocks, while gains in betting firm Flutter Entertainment and optimism about a strong economic rebound helped limit losses.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index was flat, inching closer to a record peak set last year, with travel and leisure , automakers and food & beverage sectors among the top gainers.

Basic resources and energy stocks fell 1.5% each, while financials dropped 1%.

Flutter jumped 6.8% to the top of UK's FTSE 100 index after the betting group said it was considering listing a small shareholding of its U.S. FanDuel business.

Danone gained 2.9% after the company's board ousted Chairman and Chief Executive Emmanuel Faber due to growing pressure from shareholders. Its stock was on course to post its biggest percentage gain in more than four months.

The STOXX 600 index is 2.6% away from its all-time high, but trading has been volatile on worries that a rise in inflation could pressure central banks to put a lid on easy money, which is vital for economic recovery.

Rising bond yields have weighed on highly valued growth sectors such as technology, while driving gains in economically sensitive pockets in the market like banks, energy and automakers.

"It is like the markets have remembered to be happy about economic recovery again," said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.

"For a time the focus was so fixed on accompanying inflation risks, the upside from a rebound in the economy as countries reopen was lost ... and those concerns over rising prices haven't disappeared entirely though."

Meanwhile, China's economy continued to recover as data showed a surge in factory and retail sector activity in the first two months of the year, beating expectations.

Investors are now awaiting the U.S. Federal Reserve meeting later this week for direction on monetary policy.

Among other stocks, Milan-listed shares of carmaker Stellantis (STLA) gained 2.1% after Deutsche Bank started coverage with a "buy" rating.

German used-car retailer Auto1 rose 0.8% after brokerages boosted their ratings on the company a month after it raised 1.83 billion euros in its initial public offering.

Swiss drugmaker Roche gained 2.1% after it said it would buy GenMark Diagnostics (GNMK), a U.S.-based maker of molecular diagnostic tests, in a $1.8 billion deal. (Reporting by Sruthi Shankar and Devik Jain in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Jonathan Oatis)

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