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Europe ends in the red as US jobs data looms; oil rises

European stocks finished under pressure on Thursday, as investors showed signs of caution ahead of a key U.S. jobs report on Friday.

Despite a positive open, the pan-European STOXX 600 ended trading in the red, down 0.4 percent provisionally. Most sectors closed in negative territory.

Of the major European bourses, both France's CAC and Germany's DAX finished in the red, at 0.22 and 0.16 percent down respectively. Meanwhile Britain's FTSE 100 sank further, closing 0.47 percent down, with sterling also posting solid losses against the U.S. dollar.

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FTSE
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IBEX 35
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Traders in Europe were seen as pausing for breath on Thursday, as investors across the globe await key employment data due out from the U.S.

The big figure investors are waiting for is the nonfarm payrolls data due out on Friday, which could provide some insight into the timing of an interest rate hike by the U.S. Federal Reserve. Economists polled by Reuters expect the U.S. economy to add 175,000 jobs.

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In recent days, several key Fed officials have weighed in on the rate hike debate, with Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker saying on Wednesday that inflation seems to be heating up in the U.S., part of a strong case for the central bank to hike rates more quickly, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile Chicago Fed President Charles Evans said on Wednesday that he would be "fine" with a rate hike by December, if data in the U.S. remained strong. The impending jobs report remains a key area of focus for Wall Street too, with markets trading lower on Thursday.

Aside from the Fed, markets have been keeping a close eye on the price moves seen in oil. Crude prices extended gains on Thursday on hopes that the world's largest producers could potentially agree on an output cut, Reuters reported.

U.S. crude broke through the $50 barrier for the first time since June, standing at $50.28 at Europe's close, while Brent hovered at $52.39. In stocks, Tullow Oil jumped 4.5 percent after Barclays raised its price target on the stock.

EasyJet shares fall

Looking at the STOXX 600, shares of EasyJet tumbled to the bottom of benchmarks, slipping 6.9 percent after it warned that profit would fall for the year ending September 30, citing major disruptions and exchange rate fluctuations as the key reasons.

Marks and Spencer fell over 2 percent after Numis cut its rating on the stock from "hold" to "reduce." Fellow retailer Next also closed lower, after Numis cut its rating on the stock.

Meanwhile, Apple supplier Dialog Semiconductor reported a rise in third-quarter revenues and received a price target rise from both RBC and Natixis, helping send shares in the firm to close up over 7 percent.

However, Osram Licht soared 10.38 percent following a report by magazine WirtschaftsWoche, which said that chipmaker Sanan Optoelectronics Co Ltd wanted to buy the German lighting firm, citing unnamed sources according to Reuters. Osram also received a price target raise from DZ Bank and Independent Research.

Banks in focus after Citi 'overweight' rating

Meanwhile, the European banking sector outperformed fellow sectors on Thursday after Citi recommended in a note that investors go "overweight" on the sector. Citi pointed out names to buy including BBVA, Standard Chartered, BNP Paribas, Intesa Sanpaolo. Several banks posted solid gains during trade, however weakness in the broader market capped the positive sentiment seen in the sector.

In individual banking news, asset manager Amundi is willing to offer around 4 billion euros ($4.47 billion) for UniCredit's fund management arm, Pioneer, according to a report in Il Messaggero, sending shares in the lender to close up over 2 percent.

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