European shares closed down on Thursday, after trading in and out of positive territory throughout the afternoon.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 closed provisionally down 0.3 percent at 1,315.09 points after wavering throughout the day, as investors weighed worries about the euro zone against dovish minutes from the U.S. Federal Reserve.
Shares of banks in peripheral Europe had lagged, after the Bank of Italy reported that bad loans at Italian banks had grown by 20 percent in August to a record high.
There was also bad news from Portugal on Thursday, where one of the parent companies of embattled Banco Espirito Santo confirmed it was to file for bankruptcy.
Meanwhile, British recruiting firm Hays shares closed up 4.9 percent after announcing a rise in first-quarter net fees.
Carmaker BMW closed up 1.8 percent after an analyst upgrade from JPMorgan.
Shares of Gerresheimer closed down 5.4 percent after the glass and plastic producer was downgraded by JPMorgan and Berenberg.
BoE holds fire
The Bank of England left its benchmark interest rate unchanged as expected on Thursday, as wage growth and productivity remained surprisingly weak, lagging the country's economic recovery.
The U.K. central bank's nine-member Monetary Policy Committee left the bank's main interest rate at a record low of 0.5 percent and the total size of its bond portfolio at £375 billion ($617 billion) after their October policy meeting.
On the economic data front, Germany posted its biggest fall in foreign trade for five and a half years on Thursday morning. The Federal Statistics Office noted that late summer vacations had accentuated the fall in both exports and imports.
Later on Thursday, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi spoke at the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C. He reiterated his message that without reforms there could be no recovery in Europe.
At the same time, a panel of top guests—including Germany finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, and Italian economy and finance minister, Pier Carlo Padoan—debated the future of the euro zone, at a debate chaired by CNBC in Washington D.C. World leaders and top economists had assembled in the city for the International Monetary Fund's annual meetings.
Panelist Larry Summers of Harvard University compared the lackluster growth in Europe to Japan's straits in the 1990s and said that economic policies in Europe were not working.
Meanwhile, Wall Street tumbled on Thursday, reclaiming a large chunk of prior-day gains, as investors bypassed U.S. corporate earnings and economic reports to focus on global concerns.
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