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European markets close lower; AstraZeneca down 15%; Indivior up 17%

  • The pan-European Stoxx 600 edged lower Thursday with major bourses mostly in negative territory.
  • Germany's flagship lender Deutsche Bank reported a surprise surge in profits for the second quarter of 2017, beating market estimates and doubling its pre-tax profit figure from last year.
  • Health-care stocks were down over 1 percent on Thursday amid reports of a major drugs setback for AstraZeneca.

European markets closed lower Thursday after the U.S. Federal Reserve kept interest rates unchanged and investors reacted to a slew of earnings reports.

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The pan-European Stoxx 600 ended the day below the flatline, with sectors in largely negative territory.

Food and beverages stocks were the top performers, up 1.3 percent, as investors digested strong earnings news. Britain's Diageo posted higher full-year sales and profits on Thursday, saying productivity initiatives beat expectations. Its shares surged towards the top of the benchmark, closing the day up 5.9 percent.

Germany's flagship lender Deutsche Bank reported a surprise surge in profits for the second quarter of 2017, beating market estimates and doubling its pre-tax profit figure from last year. However, CEO John Cryan said revenues were "not as universally strong as we would have liked." Its shares closed down 6.4 percent.

Europe's largest oil firm Royal Dutch Shell surpassed analyst expectations, reporting revenue of $72.13 billion in the second quarter of 2017. The oil and gas giant said it had been supported by its refining and chemicals business. Its shares traded marginally higher.

Health-care stocks were down over 1 percent on Thursday amid reports of a major drugs setback for AstraZeneca. The British pharmaceutical company said a combination of two of its new oncology drugs failed to shrink lung cancer tumors in a clinical trial. The news cast doubt among investors that the firm would be able to achieve its ambitious growth plans. Its shares tumbled over 15 percent, slumping to its lowest level in nearly five months.

This came as pharmaceutical company Indivior upgraded its profit forecast following a 4 percent rise in revenues in the first half of the year. The stock jumped to the top of the benchmark, up more than 17 percent.

Meanwhile, U.S. stocks opened at record highs. Technology stocks continued their gains, with Amazon taking a particular lead. This caused founder Jeff Bezos to overtake Bill Gates as the world's richest man Wednesday, according to CNBC estimates.

Fed holds rates

The Federal Reserve signaled Wednesday that it could be ready as soon as September to start steadily shrinking its holdings of more than $4 trillion in bonds. The U.S. central bank also maintained its benchmark lending rate and suggested it was on course to stick to its slow path of monetary tightening.

German consumer sentiment increased heading into August, the GfK research group said Thursday. The forward-looking consumer sentiment indicator, based on a survey of around 2,000 German citizens, rose to 10.8 in August, up from 10.6 in July.

"In the opinion of consumers, the German economy is now firing on all cylinders," Rolf Buerkl, a researcher at GfK, said in a statement.

Elsewhere, the U.K.'s International Trade Secretary Liam Fox was in Mexico as part of Britain's ongoing efforts to secure its trading future outside of the European Union.

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