UPDATE 1-Defensive plays rule as European shares grind higher

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(For a live blog on European stocks, type LIVE/ in an Eikon news window)

* U.S.-China trade talks to resume next month

* Defensive healthcare leads gains on STOXX 600

* Evotec jumps on partnership with Japan's Takeda (Adds comments, updates market action)

By Shreyashi Sanyal and Sruthi Shankar

Sept 24 (Reuters) - European shares inched higher on Tuesday, with gains dominated by sectors perceived as defensive plays against the risk of a deeper economic slowdown and the chance of new body blows from U.S.-China trade talks.

The European healthcare and food and beverage sectors - commonly considered as industries where demand and results hold up relatively better when the economy slows - were among the top gainers on the main European index.

Stock markets have been spooked in the past week by a run of poor economic data on the euro zone as well as mixed signals on Donald 's trade war with China, weakening investors appetite for riskier plays.

Germany's IFO business climate index for September also came in just shy of expectations on Tuesday.

Central banks continue to plough money into the financial system with a combination of interest rate cuts and other monetary moves but traders seem far from convinced that will see off the risk of a broader recession.

"Investors have to invest because of the low interest environment, but the best sectors currently are defensives," said Christian Stocker, strategist at UniCredit.

The food and beverage index has surged 30% this year, the most among its peers.

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The pan-European STOXX 600 index was up 0.2%.

Trade-sensitive Frankfurt shares rose 0.1%, supported by comments from U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin overnight that high-level trade talks with China were set to resume in two weeks.

Shares of German biotech company Evotec jumped 6.0% after it expanded a partnership with Japan's Takeda Pharma .

The eurozone banking index up 0.5% after a 2.8% tumble in the previous session after surveys showed growth in services and manufacturing across the euro zone stalled in September.

A day after the collapse of British travel giant Thomas Cook , the travel and leisure sector gained another 0.5%, with rival airlines and travel operators rising on expectations they will pick up the lost business.

Story continues

Deutsche Lufthansa, Ryanair Holdings and TUI all rose between 1.6% and 2% in early trading.

Among other stocks, Belgian materials and technology group Umicore gained 8.1%, the most on the STOXX 600, after it partnered with LG Chem for the supply of NMC cathode materials.

Weir Group PLC fell 2.8%, to the bottom of the STOXX 600, after Peel Hunt cut its rating on UK-based engineering firm to "hold."

London's FTSE index also moved 0.2% higher ahead of a Supreme Court decision on U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson's suspension of parliament. If the verdict goes against Johnson's government, however, sterling is expected to rise - normally a negative for the multinational-heavy index. (Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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