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Europe ends 2.3% down as commodities crumble; earnings weigh

European equities were feeling the heat by Wednesday's close as oil prices and commodity stocks took a sharp tumble, while fresh earnings failed to elevate investor sentiment.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 index closed 2.3 percent down provisionally, as weak trading in the U.S. added pressure to Europe's markets. All sectors finished sharply lower.

London's FTSE 100 fell 1.6 percent, while its European counterparts slipped even further down. France's CAC closed 2 percent lower while Germany's DAX tumbled 2.6 percent.

Oil in focus

Symbol
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Price
 
Change
%Change
Volume
FTSE
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DAX
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CAC
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IBEX 35
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Oil prices continued to send markets on a roller coaster, after hopes of an oil production cut were dashed on Tuesday when Saudi Arabia's oil minister, Ali bin Ibrahim Al-Naimi signaled no cuts would happen to tackle the global supply glut.

U.S. crude fell as much as 5 percent on Tuesday after the remarks. On Wednesday, U.S. crude pared slightly, last trading some 3 percent down, at $31, after the Energy Information Administration announced that crude inventories showed a much smaller build, than a previous industry report suggested.

International benchmark Brent crude was also in the red, standing around $33 a barrel at Europe's close. This sell-off caused oil stocks to tumble, with Tullow Oil off over 6 percent and Seadrill down 7.6 percent.

One bright spark in the sector was oilfield services firm Petrofac, who announced on Wednesday that its full-year revenue had risen by 10 percent. Shares shot up 4.8 percent, making it one of Europe's top performer.

Earnings weigh on sentiment

Aside from oil, a slew of earnings reports kept investors on edge. Shares of Scottish oil services and engineering firm Weir Group were down as much as 4.2 percent before closing roughly flat, after the group posted a 46 percent fall in full-year pretax profit in 2015 on the back of its customers delaying spending amid low oil prices. The group's CEO told CNBC on Wednesday that 2016 would be a "challenging year."

Meanwhile, aircraft maker Airbus saw its share price end in the red on Wednesday, despite the engineer posting a profit for 2015 in line with forecasts and announcing plans to reverse part of a planned production cut of A330 aircraft.

Shares of Iberdrola slipped 1.5 percent after the utility company reported a 4 percent rise in 2015 net profit of 2.42 billion euros, slightly below forecasts made by analysts polled by Reuters.

Wolters Kluwer was one of the best performers, closing up over 5 percent after the publisher reported a 17 percent rise in annual profit.

PSA Peugeot Citroen ended up 1.5 percent, after the carmaker swung to a full-year net profit in 2015 of 899 million euros, following a loss in the previous year.

Banking stocks drop

Meanwhile, payments firm Wirecard denied allegations on Wednesday of wrongdoing that was published in an online report, which sent shares over 21.5 percent down. The German firm said it had started legal proceedings, according to Reuters.

Europe's STOXX 600 Banks sector, fell some 3 percent, its worst day since February 11 when the index dropped 6.26 percent. BMPS and Standard Chartered sat near the bottom of the sector, off over 5 and 4 percent respectively.

Basic resources was Europe's biggest loser, closing down 6.5 percent. The sector came under pressure after Citi cut its rating on European miners from "bullish" to "neutral". With this and further declines in metal prices, Glencore and Anglo American closed over 10 and 9.5 percent lower respectively.

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