Europe markets close mixed amid earnings; oil prices hit multi-year highs

Key Points
  • European markets closed mixed Thursday afternoon, with major bourses and business sectors pointing in different directions.
  • Europe's household goods led the losses, with Unilever among the sector's worst performers.
  • France's Publicis Group topped the European benchmark after posting better-than-expected underlying sales in its first quarter earnings report.

European markets closed mixed Thursday afternoon as investors reacted to fresh earnings and soaring oil prices.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed at 0, with major bourses and business sectors pointing in different directions.

Europe's household goods led the losses, tumbling throughout the day to close 1.9 percent lower. Unilever was among the sector's worst performers after the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant reported sales figures that were largely in line with expectations during the first three months of the year. The maker of Dove soap also said it remained confident shareholders would support its decision to change the corporate structure of the firm. Shares of Unilever closed roughly 2.2 percent in the red.

Meanwhile, media stocks rallied during the day's trade, closing 1.7 percent higher. France's Publicis Group posted better-than-expected underlying sales growth in the first-quarter on Thursday, supported by a bounce in North American activities. Its shares closed 7.4 percent to the upside, topping the European benchmark.

Britain's Weir Group was the third best performing stock, with its shares closing 6.2 percent higher. The firm, which makes pumps and valves for mining and energy industries, announced it would try to purchase U.S.-based ESCO Corp for an equity value of over $1 billion.

Irish drug-maker Shire performed well following news that the firm's board had rejected a takeover bid from Japanese pharma company Takeda. Talks between the two companies remain ongoing. Shire's shares closed up 5.9 percent, though they had traded even higher earlier on in the afternoon.

Swiss engineering firm ABB also saw a strong day's trading, with shares closing 4.6 percent in the green. The company released its first quarter earnings report Thursday which revealed a better-than-expected first quarter net profit of $572 million, beating forecasts of $562 million in a Reuters poll of analysts.

U.S. stocks dragged lower by tech

U.S. stocks traded lower after a major Asian chip-maker delivered a disappointing forecast that dragged the technology sector lower. Investors also fretted over rising interest rates.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 72 points, with Apple among the worst-performing stocks in the index. The S&P 500 declined 0.3 percent with technology falling 1.1 percent. The Nasdaq composite dropped 0.7 percent.

Oil prices extended gains Thursday, rising to their highest levels in more than three years. This came as U.S. crude stockpiles continue to fall and gasoline demand hits a record.