European stocks close sharply lower on trade worries; Royal Mail plunges to record low

Key Points
  • The pan-European Stoxx 600 closes provisionally down 1.4%.
  • Investors monitor trade tensions and political developments.
  • The U.K. postal service Royal Mail tanks 11% to a record low.

European markets closed sharply lower Thursday amid ongoing U.S.-China trade concerns.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed provisionally down by 1.4% with almost every sector in the red. All major bourses were in negative territory, with Britain's FTSE 100 down 1.4%, while Germany's DAX and France's CAC both fell around 1.8%.

Autos were among the worst-performing sectors in Europe, down by nearly 3%. This comes after renewed concerns over the trade relationship between the U.S. and China. German carmaker Daimler was the biggest loser in the sector, down almost 7%.

The U.S. has said it will impose trading restrictions on Chinese telecoms giant Huawei from August 19. Of the $70 billion Huawei spent buying components in 2018, some $11 billion went to U.S. firms including Qualcomm, Intel and Micron Technology.

In corporate news, Deutsche Bank shareholders gathered Thursday for its annual general meeting, with questions over the bank's strategy and leadership. Deutsche has been the source of much negative publicity in recent years — from settlements with the U.S. Department of Justice to weak earnings. Shares fell over 2%.

Looking at other individual stocks, Royal Mail tanked to the bottom of the Stoxx 600 and hit a record low. Reuters cited one trader as saying there was a legitimate fear the privatized U.K. postal service could be renationalized, amid turmoil surrounding Prime Minister Theresa May's government. The stock was down nearly 11%.

On Wall Street, stocks dropped on the back of U.S.-China trade jitters. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell over 300 points, while the and Nasdaq indexes were also in negative territory.

Back in Europe, politics is a central focus as voting in the EU elections begins in the U.K. and the Netherlands.

In Britain specifically, Brexit uncertainty continues to weigh, with pressure mounting on the country's leader to resign. Sterling hovered about the flatline late Thursday, after May unveiled a "new" Brexit deal that is largely expected to be rejected by the U.K.'s Parliament.