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European markets close lower after ECB ends QE purchases

Key Points
  • The pan-European Stoxx 600 ended slightly lower on Thursday.
  • The ECB ended its crisis-era bond-buying program.
  • Utilities was the best performing sector on the day.

European stocks were slightly lower on average Thursday as the European Central Bank formally brought its 2.6 trillion euro ($3 tn) QE program to a close.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 was little changed from the previous session, provisionally slipping 0.16 percent.

European Markets: FTSE, GDAXI, FCHI, IBEX

The ECB is to end to its crisis-era bond-buying program this December after nearly four years. European lenders have generally been critical of the central bank's QE program, arguing it has a negative impact on their net interest income. Unicredit was among those leading the gains, up 1.4 percent on the prospect of the ECB ending its contentious stimulus program.

Meanwhile, Germany's Metro slumped to the bottom of the index after the company reported persistently challenging business conditions in Russia. Shares of the wholesale tumbled more than 7 percent on the news.

Looking at other stocks on the move, Britain's Antofagasta surged toward the top of the European benchmark in morning trade before giving up most of its gains to finish around 0.7 percent higher. Overall Basic Resources were the best performing sector.

President Donald Trump (L) shakes hand with China's President Xi Jinping at the end of a press conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 9, 2017.
Fred Dufour | AFP | Getty Images

Market focus is largely attuned to global trade developments, after a flurry of upbeat comments from Washington and Beijing heightened expectations of a comprehensive trade deal.

On Wednesday, Reuters reported Chinese state-owned companies had bought more than 1.5 million tons of U.S. soybeans. It was the first major U.S. soybean purchases in more than six months, and the most clear sign to date that China is making good progress on pledges at the start of the month.

In Asia, MSCI-s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares, excluding Japan, rose more than 1 percent on Thursday.

Back in Europe, sterling pared some its gains after rallying up from 20-month lows in the previous session. It comes after British Prime Minister Theresa May survived a party no-confidence vote.

The U.K. currency was flat by the end of the afternoon however, only up around 0.02 percent to trade at $1.233 against the U.S. dollar at around 4:30 p.m. London time.

Meanwhile, investors monitored a series of interest rate announcements on Thursday. Norway's central bank left its main interest rate unchanged, as expected, while the Swiss National Bank said there was no reason at all to change their expansive monetary policy and said it stood ready to restrain interest in the franc.

The European Central Bank (ECB) gives its latest update on euro area monetary policy later in the session.