European stocks slump at the close as trade fears weigh; BOE holds steady

Key Points
  • The pan-European STOXX 600 provisionally closed down 1.55 percent while all sectors posted sharp declines by the end of trade.
    The FTSE 100 finished trade 1 percent lower after the Bank of England kept rates unchanged, though two policymakers voted in favor of an immediate rate hike.
  • Technology was among the worst performing sectors, as a result of an ongoing scandal involving Facebook's sharing of data.

European equities tumbled by Thursday's close as traders reacted to weakness seen on Wall Street, policy announcements from central banks and concerns surrounding global trade.

The pan-European STOXX 600 provisionally closed down 1.55 percent, off its session lows, while sectors all posted sharp declines by the end of trade.

On the bourses front, the FTSE 100 slipped 1.23 percent lower after the U.K. central bank kept rates unchanged but two policymakers unexpectedly voted in favor of an immediate rate hike. This sent sterling to a fresh seven-week high against the dollar shortly after midday, before reversing to trade lower. The British index had opened below 7,000 points for first time since December 2016.

Meantime, France's CAC 40 was off 1.38 percent and Germany's DAX fell 1.7 percent by the close, making the index its worst day since March 2, when it declined by 2.27 percent. Stocks came under additional pressure in afternoon trade, on the back of a market sell-off in the U.S.

Reckitt Benckiser rises 4.8% as stocks underperform

Technology was one of the worst performing sectors Thursday, closing down 2.15 percent. Stocks have been impacted this week amid an ongoing scandal involving Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg admitted Wednesday that the social media network committed mistakes in a data leak that was potentially used for political purposes.

The European sector came under additional pressure following earnings, with United Internet tumbling 9.5 percent after reporting its results for 2017.

Banks meantime posted declines of 2.5 percent as a group. Even though central banks are moving away from their ultra-low rates, an announcement from the Fed on Wednesday proved less hawkish than expected.

In individual stock news, Reckitt Benckiser was the STOXX 600's best performer, finishing up 4.78 percent. This was after news that it had ended talks to buy the consumer health-care division of Pfizer, stating that the business "did not fit in its acquisition criteria".

Wall Street dampens sentiment

Markets in Europe extended losses during the later part of trade, as U.S. stocks came under severe pressure, on the back of technology stocks declining. Stocks were also pressured by worries of a potential trade war, consequently, the Dow Jones industrial average tumbled more than 300 points around Europe's market close.

On Thursday, President Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive memorandum, which would slap China with $50 billion in tariffs. The measures are designed to penalize the consumer nation, with the U.S. administration stating that China's trade practices involve stealing U.S. firms' intellectual property.

Consequently one of the sectors in focus today was the miners, with basic resources tumbling almost 3 percent by the close, with a number of London-listed miners posting losses of 2 percent or more.

Sticking with U.S. politics, on Thursday John Dowd resigned as Trump's lead attorney in the special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

—CNBC's Kevin Breuninger contributed to this report