Europe's basic resources stocks were the worst performers Friday, closing down 2.53 percent amid heightened global trade war fears. Vice President Mike Pence accused China of "malign" efforts to undermine President Donald Trump on Thursday, prompting Beijing to respond by saying his remarks were "unwarranted" and "slandered" the Asian giant.
Washington and Beijing's political sparring marks the latest escalation in tensions between the world's two largest economies, with investors increasingly concerned about an ongoing trade conflict. Basic resources stocks — with their heavy exposure to China — led the losses in Europe. Antofagasta, Anglo American and Rio Tinto all finished trade down 4 percent or more.
Looking at individual stocks, Denmark's Danske Bank sank near to the bottom of the European benchmark on Friday, finishing down 6.24 percent, off its session lows. The move comes after Credit Suisse cut its rating to "neutral" from "outperform" and following recent news that it faces a U.S. criminal investigation into a 200 billion euro ($230.1 billion) money laundering scandal at its Estonian branch. Denmark's biggest bank has lost a third of its value so far this year.
Sticking with weak European performers, Scout24 sank 5.7 percent, after HSBC slashed its target price and rating on the German-listed stock from "buy" to "hold". Meanwhile, Britain's Hammerson jumped towards the top of the index, up 2.8 percent after Credit Suisse upgraded its stock recommendation to "outperform" from "underperform."
Elsewhere, shares of Unilever ended the session slightly under pressure after the consumer goods firm announced that its board had withdrawn its proposal to relocate to the Netherlands, following a growing wave of opposition from U.K. shareholders.