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European stocks closed sharply lower on Thursday, as sentiment was hit by a pullback in oil prices and commodity stocks, amid concerns over the global economy's health.
The pan-European STOXX 600 ended 1 percent lower provisionally in what had been a choppy trading session. All sectors finished in negative territory.
European shares followed the cautious tone set in Asia's trading session. Markets in the region closed mostly lower as a weaker dollar weighed on Japan's shares and South Korean stocks failed to get a boost from a surprise interest rate cut.
Japan's core machinery orders also fell more than expected in April, raising concerns about business investment while data from China on Wednesday showed that exports in May fell sharply. This comes a day after the World Bank cut its 2016 global growth forecast to 2.4 percent from the 2.9 percent estimated in January.
Investors have been keeping an eye on the U.S. dollar which has been showing signs of weakness this week as the prospect of an interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve is pushed back. Despite this usually supporting the energy and basic resources sectors, both were trading sharply lower throughout Thursday's session.
Oil prices fell into the red on Thursday, as traders took profits following a few positive sessions. Brent and U.S. crude were both off 1 percent or more each at Europe's close, trading at $52.03 and $50.70 respectively. In stocks, Petrofac led the losses, off 5.1 percent, after Citigroup cut its price target for the stock. The oil price decline added pressure to U.S. stocks, which traded lower.
Basic Resources was Europe's worst-performing sector, closing down 2.85 percent as copper prices sharply declined. UK-listed miner Glencore saw declines of more than 5 percent after it agreed to sell a 9.99 percent stake in its agricultural business to British Columbia Investment Corp for $624.9 million. And Antofagasta tanked 6.3 percent after Canaccord Genuity cut its price target for the stock.
British plastics supplier Essentra sat at the bottom of the STOXX 600, closing down 27.7 percent after it warned on lower full-year operating profit.
Shares in German utility E.ON declined 7.2 percent after shareholders approved a plan to spin off the company's conventional energy business. Still, Raymond James raised its price target for the stock.
Elsewhere, shares in hotel operator Accor closed 2.8 percent down after Credit Suisse slashed its price target for the stock.
And Vodafone is to sell its New Zealand business to Sky Network Television for $2.4 billion in shares and cash, sending shares in the British telecoms giant almost 5 percent lower by the closer, dragging down the entire telecoms sector.
A day after the European Central Bank (ECB) launched its corporate bond buying program, the bank's President, Mario Draghi, gave a speech at the Brussels economic forum. The central bank chief warned on delaying structural reforms and the lasting impact that could have on the euro zone's economy.
"So it is in fact in everybody's interest to act without undue delay. For the ECB, this means that we do not let inflation undershoot our objective for longer than is avoidable given the nature of the shocks we face. For others, it means devoting every effort to ensuring that output is returned to potential before subpar growth causes lasting damage," Draghi said.
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