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Europe stocks close lower on Fed, BOJ; Brexit fears bite

European stocks closed lower on Thursday as markets digested the latest monetary policy decisions from the U.S. Federal Reserve and Bank of Japan (BOJ) and remained on edge over the upcoming referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union.

The pan-European STOXX 600 ended the day down 0.57 percent.

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Global markets are reacting to the Federal Open Market Committee's decision to hold its interest rate target at 0.25-0.50 percent on Wednesday, after a two-day policy meeting

In its post-meeting statement, the Fed noted that the unemployment rate had declined (to 4.7 percent) but "job gains have diminished." Fed Chair Janet Yellen said in a press conference following the statement release that the Brexit vote, due on June 23, was also one of the factors in Wednesday's decision.

The bank was widely expected to stand pat on rates and there were signals Wednesday that the likelihood of two further rate hikes in 2016 was increasingly unlikely.

Meanwhile in Asia, the Bank of Japan (BOJ) also kept monetary policy steady on Thursday after a two-day meeting, as widely expected. The Japanese yen strengthened sharply against the dollar and the Nikkei tumbled 2.15 percent.

Also the Swiss National Bank left its deposit rate unchanged at -0.75 percent.

The Bank of England voted unanimously to maintain its key interest rate at 0.5 percent as it warned that a vote for Britain to leave the EU would pose risks to the global economy.

Banks slide

Banks led European stocks lower amid fresh concern over the capital requirements of some lenders. The Swiss National Bank said on Thursday that UBS and Credit Suisse may need to raise extra cash to meet new leverage requirements. Both lenders ended the day in negative territory.

The Italian banks were also under pressure amid continued concerns over the non-performing loan portfolios of the lenders. Unicredit has begun interviewing candidates to find a successor to CEO Federico Ghizzoni, Reuters reported citing Il Sole 24 Ore. Unicredit shares were lower.

Auto stocks in reverse

Auto stocks were also lower despite European car sales rising 16 percent in May, according to the Association of European Carmakers.

Fiat Chrysler, which recorded double-digit sales growth in May, saw its shares end the day in the red after Citigroup cut its price target for the stock.

Gold higher, oil slides

The uncertainty around Brexit, monetary policy and the global economy has seen investor rush into safe-haven assets including German government bonds and gold, which has been rallying. The uptick in the gold price helped precious metal miners Randgold Resources and Fresnillo push higher.

Elsewhere in the commodities space, shares of oil major BP were in positive territory after Citigroup raised its price target for the stock.

The broader oil and gas sector was trading lower however amid a fall in the oil price. Finland's Neste saw its shares end the day in the red after Credit Suisse cut its outlook on the stock from "neutral" to "underperform".

Mulberry shines

Elsewhere, luxury bag maker Mulberry's shares closed higher after it reported a 5 percent rise in revenue for the year ended March 31.

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