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Europe closes mixed as US-China trade developments weigh; ECB holds rates

Key Points
  • On Thursday, Wilbur Ross told CNBC that the U.S. was still "miles and miles from getting a resolution," adding that there were still "lots and lots of issues".
  • On Thursday, the European Central Bank decided that it wouldn't take any action following its policy meeting — opting to hold fire on its benchmark interest rates.

European stocks closed in mixed territory after renewed pressure during Thursday's afternoon deals, as investors digested the latest political and central banking news.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed in positive, up 0.25 percent in afternoon trade. Major and peripheral bourses in Europe closed mixed, with FTSE100 closing in the red and the German DAX and French CAC closing in positive territory.

European Markets: FTSE, GDAXI, FCHI, IBEX

Markets became more jittery in later trade, after fresh comments from the U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, saw trade in the U.S. dip into the red. On Thursday, Ross told CNBC that the U.S. was still "miles and miles from getting a resolution, " adding that there are "lots and lots of issues" when it comes to trade deals.

Ross' comments come as Washington and Beijing try to fix their trade disputes, under a tariff cease-fire which is slated to end at the beginning of March. The news saw markets pare gains, as uncertainty surrounding a trade deal festered. At the start of the U.S. session, Wall Street fluctuated between gains and losses.

Elsewhere, markets in Europe have been tuning into the latest news coming out of the European Central Bank. On Thursday, the central bank decided that it wouldn't take any action, opting to hold fire on its benchmark interest rates.

After the rate decision, President Mario Draghi stated that risks surrounding the euro area growth outlook had shifted to the downside, based on "the persistence of uncertainties related to geopolitical factors and the threat of protectionism, vulnerabilities in emerging markets and financial market volatility."

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross: We are still 'miles and miles' from a trade deal with China

Tech surges

Looking at Europe's corporate space, technology sector closed more than 2 percent higher. The industry was given a boost after STMicroelectronics earnings were published.

In early afternoon trade, the semiconductor soared to the top of the STOXX 600, after its earnings report gave off an upbeat note for the second half of the year, stating that one of its main aims for 2019 was to continue to outperform in its served market.

In autos, Renault came off its highs, but closed in the black after the automaker confirmed that the appointment of its new chairman, Jean-Dominique Senard and its new chief executive, Thierry Bollore. Earlier on in the day, French finance minister Bruno Le Maire said in an interview that embattled executive Carlos Ghosn had resigned from Renault.

Looking at other stocks, shares of Novozymes closed a little over 5 percent, after the biotech firm reported earnings. Looking at its 2018 results, the group said that while it had a "satisfactory" year that was in line with its initial outlook, it had seen a weak performance in its Middle Eastern market region.

Another weak link in trade was Reckitt Benckiser, after the U.K.-listed firm had its rating and target price slashed by Jefferies. Shares closed just under 3 percent.

Outside of corporate news, investors continue to keep an eye on politics as uncertainty surrounding the future of Brexit and the ongoing government shutdown in the U.S. weigh on sentiment.

— CNBC's Spriha Srivastava contributed to this report