Europe Markets

Sanofi Leads European Shares to 2013 Closing Low and Reuters
Europe Shares Close Lower After ECB Decision

Two leading pan-European equity indexes fell to 2013 closing lows on Thursday, led by weakness in drugmaker Sanofi after its results, and amid persistent concern over the region's economic weakness.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index provisionally closed down 0.3 percent at 1,149.29 points, after choppy trade on Thursday. At one stage the pan-European index was up by as much as 0.5 percent at 1,158.26 points.

The closed down 0.7 percent at 2,599.16 points.

European Central Bank (ECB) Head Mario Draghi said economic weakness would continue to afflict the region, which has been hit by a debt crisis, in the early part of 2013.

However, several traders expected the equity market's decline to be a relatively short-lived, with funds still looking to put money into higher-yielding stocks rather than bonds.

"The risk is still to the upside. People have had their fingers burnt trying to sell the market on the back of bad economic news," said XBZ Ltd European equity options broker Mike Turner.

Both the European Central Bank (ECB) and the Bank of England announced they would keep interest rates on hold on Thursday.

ECB Chief Mario Draghi faced questions over the euro's appreciation, at the Bank's regular press conference on Thursday after French President Francois Hollande called for a target exchange rate.

Draghi was also asked about his connection to the scandal at Italy's Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, after its 730 million euro loss from derivative trades.

Earlier on Thursday, the focus was on a parliamentary committee meeting in London, at which incoming Bank of England Governor Mark Carney was quizzed by U.K. policy makers.

Elsewhere, Irish policymakers voted through emergency legislation to liquidate the former Anglo Irish bank.

A two-day EU summit will kick off in Brussels on Thursday. The council is expected to discuss its financial framework for 2014-2020. It's also the first meeting since U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed that his country would hold a referendum on EU membership.