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Europe ends in the red after mixed earnings batch; BOJ eyed

European stocks finished in negative territory on Thursday as investors waded through another raft of earnings.

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The pan-European STOXX 600 ended down 0.95 percent provisionally, with a weak trading session in the U.S. not helping lift sentiment.

The U.K.'s FTSE 100, France's CAC 40 and Germany's DAX all finished trade lower; with Italy's FTSE MIB and Spain's IBEX under-performing the broader market, closing down 2 percent and 2.1 percent respectively.

Earnings shake up Europe's banks

Earnings were in focus for European investors on Thursday. Credit Suisse reported a surprise profit for the second quarter of 2016, however shares closed 5 percent down, while French bank BNP Paribas also fell after posting better-than-expected second-quarter profit, even as its retail bank struggled. Both stocks had been trading higher earlier in the day.

Elsewhere in the banking space, Lloyds reported that first-half pre-tax profit more than doubled year-on-year but announced further cost-cutting measures that will see 3,000 jobs cut, sending shares to end 5.8 percent down. Deutsche Bank shares also tumbled after both Barclays and JPMorgan cut their price target for the stock.

Meanwhile, Unicredit ended over 3.5 percent lower after Reuters reported it is considering a 5 billion euro cash call and a sale of its Bank Pekao and FinecoBank units to boost capital.

Saipem drags down oil stocks; Rolls Royce races ahead

In the oil and gas space, Shell's second-quarter earnings on a current cost of supplies (CCS) basis attributable to shareholders (excluding identified items) was $1 billion, down from $3.8 billion in the same period last year, a 70 percent fall. The news sent shares to end over 3.5 percent lower.

Finland's Neste reported second-quarter core earnings that beat analyst expectations, sending shares surging 9.9 percent. Meanwhile, Italian oil services company Saipem tanked 9.8 percent after it cut its profit guidance for the year on the low oil price.

Looking at the oil market, prices struck a new three-month low on Thursday as producers continued to pump more than needed and economic growth prospects darkened. At the end of the day, U.S. crude's WTI contract entered a technical bear market, having fallen at least 20 percent from its 2016 intraday high of $51.67; according to Reuters.

At Europe's close, U.S. crude and Brent were both sharply lower, hovering at $41.43 and $42.99 respectively.

Among the other earnings, drinks giant Diageo reported full-year 2016 preliminary results on Thursday in which it said net profit was £2.24 billion ($2.95 billion) on full-year sales totaling £10.49 billion. Shares closed 2.5 percent up.

French retailer Carrefour said first-half underlying operating profit rose 5.3 percent but saw sales fall in China. Still, shares of the firm slipped 5.5 percent.

Pharma giant Astrazeneca reported a 21 percent year-on-year decline in core operating profit, but shares jumped over 7 percent, while Thomas Cook shares rallied over 8.5 percent after it cut its profit outlook for the year but said it still planned to pay a dividend.

Rolls Royce posted an 80 percent decline in first-half profit but stuck to its guidance for the year, sending shares up 13.5 percent, while Logitech was the STOXX 600's top performer, up 13.6 percent, after reporting strong first quarter sales.

Meanwhile, Volkswagen slipped over 3 percent after reporting a 56.5 percent decline in second-quarter pre-tax profit.

Central banks in focus

European markets have also digesting the latest statement from the Federal Open Market Committee and keeping an eye on the start of a two-day policy meeting of the Bank of Japan (BOJ).

As expected, the Federal Reserve kept interest rates unchanged while policymakers noted the labor market has "strengthened" and that "near-term risks to the economic outlook have diminished." Analysts were divided on whether the statement pointed to a September rate hike, however, and U.S. stocks closed mixed Wednesday after the Fed statement and major earnings reports.

Meanwhile, in Asia, markets ended mixed on Thursday, as investors digested fresh earnings and awaited the outcome of the BOJ's two-day policy meeting.

Influential Japanese business daily Nikkei had previously reported that BOJ officials were looking at multiple stimulus proposals ahead of the central bank's policy meeting. Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Japanese media agency Jiji reported that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was preparing a stimulus package worth 28 trillion yen ($265.30 billion), which exceeds initial estimates of around 20 trillion yen of potential stimulus.

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