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European markets close lower amid earnings; UK retail sales send sterling below $1.30

Key Points
  • European market sentiment was mostly driven by earnings.
  • Metals prices dragged on Basic Resources stocks as fears of a Chinese slowdown persisted.
  • Global stocks were lower on average as trade concerns continued.

European shares closed lower on Thursday, as investors digested corporate results and cashed in recent gains in the stock market.

European Markets: FTSE, GDAXI, FCHI, IBEX

The pan-European Stoxx 600 was provisionally off by 1.03 percent at the session close in Europe with all but three sectors in negative territory. Basic resources were down 1.56 percent, becoming the worst-performer. Metals in particular were in the firing line as worries about the Chinese economy persist.

Media stocks were also under pressure, down by 1.36 percent. This as French media conglomerate Publicis fell 8.99 percent after it reported an expected drop in second-quarter sales.

Looking across the European benchmark, Iliad jumped 7.44 percent Thursday following the news that the French telecoms operator had reached 1 million subscribers in Italy.

At the other end of the index stood Dormakaba. The Swiss security specialist was off by more than 17 percent in the mid-afternoon after extending its forward guidance.

Another stock on the slide is U.K. retailer Sports Direct, which reported an £85 million hit to its full earnings thanks to its investment in the struggling department store chain Debenhams. Shares of Sports Direct were down almost 12 percent at one stage, but recovered to finish the day off by 7.1 percent.

Unilever shares have risen steadily during the day despite posting disappointing results.The consumer goods firm is blaming a price war, especially in the North American market. The Anglo-Dutch firm finished exactly 3 percent higher on its London listing.

In other corporate news, Ryanair is to face its biggest-ever strike by cabin crew next week, with about 600 flights expected to be canceled as a result. Shares were sightly off in mid-morning deals.

New trade deal

Meanwhile, trade relations remain in the spotlight with White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow suggesting that the European Union will be offering a significant deal on trade with the U.S. soon.

Speaking to CNBC at a conference Wednesday, he said that European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who is to visit Washington next week, will put on the table “an important free trade offer.” Separately, President Donald Trump also said Wednesday that the White House may prepare a trade deal with Mexico and Canada.

U.S. stocks have dipped as investors digested the latest batch of corporate earnings, while trade fears simmered.

At around 11:30 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had fallen 66 points, with Travelers Companies and American Express lagging. The slipped 0.23 percent, with materials and consumer staples underperfoming. The Nasdaq Composite also pulled back 0.16 percent.

Back in the U.K., Dominic Raab, the new chief Brexit negotiator, is set to publish and spread technical advice for businesses and households in case there’s no agreement with the European Union, the Financial Times reported. Raab met with his opposite number Michel Barnier in Brussels today.

The data calendar in Europe was thin Thursday with only retail sales out in the U.K. These showed a quarterly growth of 2.1 percent compared to the first three months of the year — the biggest jump since the first quarter of 2004. However, in June alone, sales were down by 0.5 percent from May.

That June figure sent sterling down below the $1.30 mark to hit its lowest level against the dollar since September 2017. Recent weak wage growth figures is adding to the pound's gloom.