European markets closed lower; BoE hold interest rates; Hikma down 7%

European markets closed lower Thursday as investors digested the latest batch of corporate earnings and reacted to strong gains in oil prices.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 slid 0.52 percent with all but two sectors trading in negative territory.


Basic resources emerged the winner on Thursday, trading up 0.36 percent, buoyed by rising oil prices and major gains for mining giants Fresnillo and Polymetal. Food & beverages also shifted marginally into positive territory.

At the other end, Europe's telecoms sector was among the worst performers with most of its stocks trading below the flatline. Telenor, Telefonica and BT all slumped more than 3 percent on Thursday. Britain's biggest telecoms group, BT, said it plans to cut 4,000 jobs and replace the boss of its global services business in order to deal with the root of an Italian accounting scandal which rocked the firm in January.

Banking stocks edged lower Thursday as investors reacted to mixed corporate earnings. However, despite the sector slipping slightly, Unicredit reported a net profit of 907 million euros ($986 million), topping analyst expectations as reduced loan losses under the guidance of new CEO, Jean Pierre Mustier, appeared to gather steam. Shares in Italy's largest bank by assets rose more than 3 percent.

Hikma Pharmaceuticals said Thursday there was a limited likelihood of approval that U.S. regulators would approve a generic copy of GlaxoSmithKline's lung drug Advair, due to 'major' issues with its application, Reuters reported. Its shares slipped more than 7 percent in afternoon deals.

On Wall Street, stocks traded lower as retail stocks fell sharply on the back of Macy's weak quarterly results.

Meanwhile, the Bank of England announced interest rates would remain unchanged at 0.25 percent on Thursday. Analysts had widely expected no change to rates ahead of the meeting though some had anticipated more than just one solitary vote in favor of a hike. The U.K.'s central bank also said an interest rate rise may need to occur before the end of 2019, as it saw inflation rising and the economy growing at a steady pace over the next couple of years.

Sterling fell shortly after the decision as some investors had expected more than one vote for a rate rise, Britain's currency was down 0.44 percent at $1.2880 just after 16:45 p.m. London time.

G-7 meeting in focus

Oil prices extended their more than 3 percent gains overnight after an abrupt fall in U.S. inventories combined with support from both Algeria and Iraq for OPEC to extend its production cuts. Brent was trading firmly over $50 a barrel in early afternoon trade.

U.K. industrial production contracted in March, according to data from the Office of National Statistics, as manufacturing output unexpectedly declined. In monthly terms, industrial production shrank 0.5 percent.

Central bank governors and finance ministers from the Group of Seven (G-7) will meet in the city of Bari, Italy from Thursday to Saturday. The official agenda focuses on inequality, tax laws, cybersecurity and preventing the funding of terrorism. Europe, Canada and Japan are hoping the meeting can shed some light on U.S. President Donald Trump's direction on key policies.

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Elsewhere, the European Commission will also publish its Spring economic forecasts for gross domestic product (GDP), inflation, employment and public finances on Thursday.

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