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Europe ends lower as miners, health care slide; Yellen speech on horizon

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European markets posted sharp losses by Thursday's close, weighed down by a fall in miners, autos and health care stocks as investors waited with caution for any news from the U.S. Federal Reserve.

Fed ahead

European Markets: FTSE, GDAXI, FCHI, IBEX

The pan-European STOXX 600 finished down 0.84 percent provisionally, with all sectors closing in the red.

The U.K.'s FTSE 100 slipped 0.28 percent, while the French CAC 40 fell 0.65 percent by the close. A sharp fall in auto stocks added pressure to Germany's DAX, which ended 0.88 percent down.

A lack of major data and earnings in recent days has left traders focusing on Janet Yellen's speech on Friday at the annual Jackson Hole meeting of central bankers. The meeting kicks off on Thursday and is set to last until Saturday. The symposium is set to keep the U.S. on its toes, with stocks posting mild gains around Europe's close.

Investors will be watching this meeting closely, to see if the Fed provides any indications as to when it may raise interest rates, while potentially giving a long-term outlook on the U.S. economy.

Miners under pressure

Oil prices fluctuated between gains and losses during trade, as supply glut concerns returned to the market. However, crude futures turned higher in late trade, on expectations that the dollar would weaken ahead of Yellen's speech. Brent and U.S. crude were higher around Europe's close, hovering around $49.47 and $47.04 respectively.

In the mining sector, shares of Glencore closed down 2.6 percent despite second-quarter earnings on Wednesday which showed narrowing losses and continued efforts to reduce debt. Anglo American and Antofagasta also ended lower as metal prices pointed in different directions.

Lufthansa pay deal

In corporate news, Lufthansa cabin crew voted in favor of a new pay and pensions deal provided by the German carrier, ending a long-running dispute between the two parties, sending shares to close down 2.8 percent.

Health care stocks tanked after Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton called the price hikes to the EpiPen medicine, made by Mylan NV, "outrageous." The sector ended down 1.45 percent.

Meanwhile, Prudential, Carnival, Hammerson, Dixons Carphone, London Stock Exchange and Taylor Wimpey all closed in the red, as each London-listed stock went ex-dividend on Thursday. This weighed on the FTSE 100.

ITV pulls out of acquisition

Staying with British stocks, U.K. broadcaster ITV announced that it was pulling out of its proposal to acquire Entertainment One Ltd. Shares of ITV spiked on the news before paring, to close slightly higher.

Sunrise Communications and Playtech were the STOXX 600's two top performers after both delivered positive earnings.

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