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European stocks close mixed as the Fed pauses and BOE holds rates steady

Key Points
  • London's FTSE 100 was the standout gainer by the close, rising about 0.9 percent amid a slide in the British pound.
  • The Fed abandoned all plans to raise interest rates this year, and said it would halt the decline of its balance sheet in September.
  • The Bank of England held interest rates steady amid intensifying uncertainty over Britain's departure date from the European Union.

European stocks navigated through choppy trade on Thursday, after the U.S. Federal Reserve abandoned all plans to raise interest rates this year.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed provisionally just below the flatline, with sectors and major bourses pointing in different directions. London's FTSE 100 was the standout gainer by the close, rising about 0.9 percent amid a slide in the British pound.

European Markets: FTSE, GDAXI, FCHI, IBEX

Stocks initially turned south on the back of the Fed's decision to pause rate hikes for the year, amid signs of an economic downturn. The U.S. central bank also said it would halt the decline of its balance sheet in September. But equities began to pare losses as markets stateside rose, buoyed by an uptick in Apple shares.

In the U.K., the Bank of England (BOE) held interest rates steady on Thursday, as widely expected. The decision comes amid intensifying uncertainty over Britain's departure date from the European Union.

In terms of sectors, Europe's banking index slipped nearly 1.4 percent. Germany's two largest banks were among the worst performers, amid concerns a Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank merger could pressure Deutsche to further shrink or even dispose of its U.S. business. Deutsche fell over 4 percent while Commerzbank dipped more than 3 percent.

Looking at individual stocks, Britain's Merlin Entertainments tumbled close to the bottom of the index. Shares of the company fell roughly 5.5 percent after Berenberg cut its stock recommendation to "sell" from "hold."

Brexit chaos

British Prime Minister Theresa May told the public on Wednesday that she is "on their side" amid Brexit negotiations, laying the blame for the country's delayed exit squarely with Parliament.

The embattled prime minister said British citizens were "tired of infighting and political games" and it was "high time" U.K. lawmakers decided on the next steps.

Earlier on Wednesday, May had written to European Council President Donald Tusk to formally request to delay Brexit until June 30. Until the law is changed, Britain is scheduled to leave the EU next Friday.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump warned on Wednesday that Washington would be prepared to leave tariffs on Chinese goods for a "substantial period " to ensure Beijing's compliance with any trade deal. Trade talks between the world's two largest economies are expected to resume next week.