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Europe slips into the red at close, following weakness in US, mixed earnings

European markets failed to hold onto gains by Thursday's market close, on the back of weakness seen in U.S. markets and a mixed batch of corporate earnings.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 fell 0.14 percent at the market close, in what was seen as a choppy day of trading. Sectors ended mixed.

The FTSE 100 and German DAX fell 0.42 percent each, while France's CAC 40 only slipped 0.09 percent, as political news out of the region helped lift sentiment somewhat.

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Earnings season was in full swing on Thursday, with a number of companies reporting. Britain's RSA Insurance Group reported an operating profit of £655 million for 2016 on Thursday, up 25 percent from its 2015 figure. Shares rose 4.85 percent, yet failed to lift the FTSE 100 or insurance sector from out of the red.

Also found near the top of the STOXX 600 was France's Ipsen and German-listed Dialog Semiconductor, both closing up over 6.5 percent, after each company's latest results came in ahead of market expectations.

In basic resources, Glencore posted solid gains by the close after it reported an 18 percent rise in full-year profits on the back of a commodity rebound. However, a sharp decline in copper, zinc and nickel prices added pressure on the sector as a whole, with Rio Tinto falling over 5 percent.

Sticking with commodities, oil prices posted solid gains but pared slightly after U.S. government data revealed a seventh consecutive build in crude stocks; Reuters reported. Brent and U.S. crude hovered at $56.68 and $54.38 respectively at the close.

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Telecoms, closed up 0.72 percent, supported by French conglomerate Bouygues who reported improved profitability in one of its telecoms units. The group surpassed expectations to record a 1.1 billion euros operating profit, up from 941 million euros in 2015. Its shares climbed over 4 percent.

Barclays reported worse-than-expected net profits for 2016, however, the U.K. based lender posted a surprise uptick in its capital buffers as it nears the end of a major restructuring program. Its shares closed down 2.6 percent.

Technicolor sank 7 percent, after Natixis and Kepler Cheuvreux cut their price targets on the stock. The French firm announced that it had lowered its 2020 guidance.

Meantime, U.S. markets traded mixed to lower at Europe's close, as it digested remarks from the U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who told CNBC that he wants to see "very significant" tax reform passed before Congress' August recess.

German consumer morale fell to its lowest level in four months leading into March to drop to 10.0, according to a consumer sentiment survey published by the GfK on Thursday.

U.K. retail sales however recovered from a significant reduction in January, according to an industry survey, yet companies in the sector were relatively downbeat about Britain's economic outlook as the Brexit vote contributed to a rise in inflation.

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