Market focus is largely attuned to the arrest of a top executive at Chinese tech giant Huawei, amid investor concern that the news could derail progress in U.S.-Sino trade talks.
Europe's basic resources stocks — with their heavy exposure to China — tumbled 4.2 percent during the session. Britain's FTSE 100 index slumped 3.6 percent Thursday, as mining stocks plummeted. London-listed Antofagasta led the sectoral losses, down more than 7 percent.
Meanwhile, autos stocks — seen as a trade war proxy because of the sector's export-heavy constituent's — were also among the worst performers, down more than 4.5 percent. Faurecia and Daimler both dropped more than 6 percent.
Tech stocks were also down more than 3 percent on Thursday, following the arrest of Huawei's global chief financial officer in Vancouver on Wednesday. Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei's founder, was arrested by Canadian authorities on December 1, reportedly over the possible violation of sanctions against Iran. She now faces extradition to the United States.
Looking at individual stocks, Italy's DiaSorin tumbled toward the bottom of the European benchmark Thursday morning, after Kepler Cheuvreux cut its stock recommendation to "hold" from "buy." Shares of the Milan-listed company fell more than 7 percent on the news.