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UPDATE 2-Cyclicals drive modest gains across European stocks

(For a Reuters live blog on U.S., UK and European stock markets, click or type LIVE/ in a news window.)

*

EZ March business activity returns to growth

*

DeliveryHero surges on report of activist investor taking stake

*

Volvo Cars gain after posting record March sales

(Updated at 1558 GMT)

By Johann M Cherian, Ozan Ergenay and Sruthi Shankar

April 4 (Reuters) - European stocks edged higher on Thursday, led by cyclical sectors such as miners and automakers, as investors were encouraged by signs of recovery in the euro zone economy as well as inflation getting under control.

The continent-wide STOXX 600 index closed up 0.2%, led by a 1.7% gain in the basic resources sector as copper prices hit their highest in more than 14 months.

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Automakers and banks gained more than 1% each.

Euro zone business activity expanded last month for the first time since May 2023, but the recovery was uneven with a stronger-than-expected upturn in the bloc's dominant services industry offsetting a deeper downturn in manufacturing, a survey

showed

.

Another set showed euro zone producer prices eased by 1.0% in February on a month-over-month basis, falling more than economists' estimate of a 0.7% drop. This follows a cooler-than-expected March consumer inflation print.

"Recent inflation trends in Europe stand in stark contrast to what is happening in the U.S.," as per strategists at BCA Research. "This divergence in inflationary dynamics will force the ECB to be more dovish than the Fed."

The European Central Bank (ECB) is increasingly confident that inflation is heading back to its 2% target and the case for easing borrowing costs from record highs is strengthening, the accounts of the bank's March 6-7 meeting

showed

.

Traders are pricing in a 25 basis point rate cut by the ECB in June, while recent strong U.S. data has tempered expectations of several rate cuts by the Federal Reserve.

The STOXX 600 touched record highs earlier this week on optimism that major central banks would start reducing interest rates in early 2024.

Delivery Hero

rallied 14.5% to become the top gainer among STOXX 600 components, after reports said activist investor Sachem Head had built a 3.6% stake in the German food delivery company, seeking a seat on the supervisory board and potentially to oust CEO Niklas Oestberg.

Volvo Cars gained 6.7% after the Sweden-based firm posted a 25% jump in March sales from a year earlier to 78,970 cars - an all-time high for global sales in a single month.

Basilea Pharmaceutica surged 12.4% after the Swiss firm received the U.S. health regulator's approval for its antibiotic Zevtera that treats bacterial infections including multidrug-resistant strains. (Reporting by Johann M Cherian and Ozan Ergenay; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips, Mrigank Dhaniwala and Vijay Kishore)