Europe Markets

Europe shares close lower as BOE holds rates; factory activity contracts; VW up 4%

Key Points
  • European stocks closed lower on Thursday as traders reacted to comments from the chair of the Federal Reserve, more corporate earnings and disappointing data from the euro zone.
  • The Bank of England held interest rates steady on Thursday, following the extension of the deadline for the U.K.'s withdrawal from the EU.
  • Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said in a news conference Wednesday that recently low inflationary pressures may only be "transitory."

European stocks closed lower on Thursday as traders reacted to comments from the chair of the Federal Reserve, a Bank of England monetary policy statement, corporate earnings and disappointing data from the euro zone.

The pan-European Euro Stoxx 600 Index ended the session 0.6% lower. All major bourses and most sectors were in negative territory at the closing bell.

Both the U.K.'s FTSE index and sterling were trading lower on Thursday afternoon, as the Bank of England held interest rates steady following the extension of the deadline for the U.K.'s withdrawal from the EU.

Looking at individual stocks, Volkswagen reported first-quarter earnings in line with expectations on Thursday, as the automaker attempts to increase the pace of its transformation. Shares closed almost 4% higher.

Chipmaker AMS was at the top of the European benchmark, after the Apple supplier reported an upbeat outlook for the second quarter. Shares of the Austrian group gained more than 10% during Thursday's trading session.

Elsewhere, BNP Paribas reported a net income of 1.92 billion euros ($2.15 billion) for the first quarter, a jump of 22% from the same period the year before. Shares were up 1.2%.

ING, the largest Dutch financial group, reported a slight drop in first-quarter underlying net profit of 1.12 billion euros ($1.26 billion), narrowly missing analyst expectations of 1.15 billion euros in a Reuters poll. Shares were slightly lower at the end of the session.

Aside from earnings, investors were digesting news from the Federal Reserve. Chairman Jerome Powell said in a news conference Wednesday that recently low inflationary pressures may only be "transitory," dashing speculation the central bank was at least entertaining the idea of a rate cut because of tame inflation.

On the data front, factory activity in the euro zone contracted for a third month in April, according to IHS Markit, hit by weak global demand and rising trade protectionism, as well prolonged Brexit uncertainties.