Europe ends slightly lower; miners rally; Lufthansa falls

European equities finished mixed to lower on Thursday despite a rally in mining stocks and the U.S. Federal Reserve signaling fewer interest rate hikes this year.

Fed, BoE leave rates unchanged


The pan-European Stoxx 600 index came off session lows, to close down 0.1 percent provisionally. Most sectors closed in negative territory.

Britain's FTSE 100 reversed earlier losses to finish up 0.4 percent, following a rally in London-listed mining stocks. Meanwhile, most European bourses closed in the red, with France's CAC off 0.45 percent and Germany's DAX slipping 0.9 percent, following a fall in autos stocks.

Markets around the world have been reacting to the conclusion of a two-day meeting of the U.S.' Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) on Wednesday in which the central bank gave investors more clarity on the path of tightening.

The Fed left rates unchanged at between 0.25 percent and 0.5 percent at its March meeting and cut its projection for the number of 2016 rate hikes from four to two, and projected just two hikes in 2017.

Most of Asia's markets advanced Thursday following the news, while U.S stocks traded mostly higher as investors cheered on the rising oil price.

Banks fall

In other news, the Bank of England voted 9-0 to keep the U.K. main interest rate at 0.5 percent — marking the seventh straight year of record-low interest rates.

Market confidence was dented by the central bank of Norway's decision on Thursday to cut its key interest rate to an all-time low of 0.5 percent from 0.75 percent, and raised the prospect of a move into negative territory.

European banks fell 1.2 percent, following the latest slew of central bank news, with Italian banks flooding the bottom of the sector. Banco Popolare slipped more than 14 percent, with Unicredit, Banca Popolare di Milano and BMPS all closing over 4 percent lower.

Commodities on the rise

Basic Resources bucked the trend in the sector space, jumping 6.4 percent, as metal prices posted strong gains and stocks rallied in response to a weakening dollar and the Fed's decision to hike interest rates slowly.

Miners Glencore, BHP Billiton, Anglo American and Antofagasta were the best performers on the index and STOXX 600, with ArcelorMittal leading the way, finishing up 10 percent.

Precious metal firms, Randgold Resources and Fresnillo also closed sharply higher, up 7.8 and 10 percent respectively, following a jump in gold and silver prices.

Meanwhileoil futures extended gains on Thursday, continuing to gather support after the world's biggest suppliers firmed up plans to meet to discuss an output freeze, Reuters reported. International Brent crude was more than 2.5 percent higher, hitting $41.57 a barrel at the European close, while U.S. crude was up some $1.50, breaking the $40 mark.

This gave a boost to oil stocks, with Tullow Oil, BP and Statoil all posting gains of 2 percent or more. Seadrill however closed over 1 percent lower.

Lufthansa slides

Meanwhile, German airline Lufthansa slipped 4.5 percent after it reported a weak outlook for 2016 despite lower fuel prices.

Shares of LafargeHolcim ended almost 2 percent higher after the world's largest cement company reported a net loss in the fourth quarter of 2015 after booking impairment and other charges, but stuck to its planned dividend.

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