European markets finished in the red on Thursday, as a slump in health care stocks weighed on investors, despite a recovery in oil prices and mining stocks.
Health care falls
The pan-European STOXX 600 was off some 0.45 percent provisionally, with most sectors closing lower. All major European bourses closed in negative territory on Thursday, with London's FTSE 100, Germany's DAX and France's CAC 40 all ending between 0.2 and 0.3 percent lower. Several peripheral bourses, however, closed in the black.
Health care was one of Europe's worst performing sectors, closing down some 2.4 percent, after credit rating agency, Moody's cut its outlook on the global pharmaceuticals industry from "positive" to "stable", according to Reuters. Roche was the sector's worst stock of the day, off 4.7 percent. AstraZeneca and Shire also closed sharply lower.
Oil in focus
Oil prices fluctuated between highs and lows on Thursday as pessimism over a global supply glut continued to impact sentiment. Brent recovered, trading just above the flat line at Europe's close, hovering around $37, while U.S. crude was further in the green, trading just below $35.
The basic resources stocks continued their recent good run, outperforming all other sectors on Thursday. A number of miners closed sharply higher after several brokers gave bullish outlooks on their stock.
The rally in mining stocks was helped by a solid rise in the price of metals on Thursday, with BHP Billiton up over 2 percent. This is in spite of official data showing Chinese factory activity slowed in February.
Earnings in focus
On the earnings front, German sportswear maker Adidas reported a fourth-quarter net loss of 44 million euros ($47.79 million), more than analysts expected. The firm said however it was optimistic on sales and profit for 2016 however, due to big events like the Rio Olympics. Shares reacted negatively, off 2 percent.
And Germany's Evonik slid 12 percent, finishing at the bottom of the STOXX 600, after the chemical maker said 2016's adjusted core earnings could tumble as much as 19 percent.
On the other end, Aggreko surged to close up 12.5 percent after the U.K. firm reported a 13 percent fall in pretax profit for 2015 but said it was on track to deliver £80 million worth of cash savings.
Meanwhile, Dutch supermarket operator Ahold ended in the red despite reporting that underlying operating profit had come in higher at 421 million euros ($457 million) in the fourth quarter, and that it was on track to complete its planned merger with Delhaize by mid-2016. Delhaize also ended lower after net profit came in below analyst forecasts.
Aerospace engineering firm Rolls Royce rose to close over 5 percent, boosted by a price target upgrade from investment bank Jefferies, Reuters reported.