European stocks close lower as OPEC meets; BOE holds rates steady

Key Points
  • The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed provisionally down 0.86 percent Thursday with almost all sectors and major bourses in negative territory.
  • Market focus was largely centered on a meeting of major oil producers taking place in Vienna.
European stocks open higher ahead of OPEC meeting, BOE to announce rate decision

European markets closed lower Thursday against a backdrop of tension in the oil market ahead of an OPEC meeting outcome that could expand crude production.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed provisionally down 0.86 percent, with most sectors and major bourses in negative territory.

Italian bank stocks Unicredit, Ubi Banca and Intesa Sanpaolo were among the poorer performers following a report that a euroskeptic had been appointed to Italy's Senate finance committee.

French utility giant EDF was the best performer on the pan-Europe index, its stock ending up 5.26 percent, amid speculation of a possible separation between the firm's nuclear power arm and its renewable energy division.

Denmark's Novo Nordisk also impressed investors, trading higher by 3.69 percent, after the firm announced it had successfully completed new trials of an oral diabetes drug.

Meanwhile, Europe's autos stocks were the worst performing sector, down 3.29 percent for the day on news that Daimler had cut its 2018 earnings forecast, blaming global trade tensions.

Daimler said sales of its Mercedes-Benz SUVs would suffer from fresh tariffs on cars exported from the U.S. to China. Washington plans to levy tariffs of at least $50 billion on Chinese imports as a countermeasure to Beijing's alleged intellectual copyright theft.

Separately, Germany's leading automakers had reportedly thrown their support behind the abolition of import tariffs between the European Union and the U.S.

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that, in an effort to find an amicable solution to a brewing trade war, Berlin could consider scrapping the EU's current 10 percent tariff on auto imports from the U.S. Shares of Daimler, BMW and Porsche were all down sharply by the end of Thursday afternoon.

The Bank of England (BOE) held interest rates steady Thursday amid uncertainty over the U.K. economy's wider direction. However, the bank's chief economist joined two of the more hawish members of its monetary policy committee members in calling for a rate rise to 0.75 percent.

In reaction, the pound settled up 0.7 percent for the day.

OPEC in focus

Market focus Thursday is largely centered on a meeting of major oil producers taking place in Vienna. Oil-producing nations appeared to inch closer to an output agreement Wednesday although a final decision is not due until Friday. Energy ministers have gathered in the Austrian capital to determine the future of OPEC's 18-month-old agreement with Russia and other allied partners to limit production.

CIO: Less positive about Europe, partially due to euro strength

In the U.S. trading session, the Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 140 points in morning trade with Boeing and Caterpillar among the worst-performing stocks in the index. The Dow was also on track to post an eight-day losing streak.

On the Nasdaq composite, Netflix shares briefly hit an all-time high to build on its recent rally.