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European markets close lower after Trump stokes recession fears; Stoxx 600 hits 3-month low

Key Points
  • U.S. President Donald Trump announced plans to impose a 5% tariff on all Mexican imports from June 10, stirring fears, threatening an increase to 25% by October 1 if Mexico fails to stem the flow of migrants to the U.S. border.
  • Allianz went on a British buying spree Friday, snapping up the remaining 51% stake in U.K.-based LV General Insurance Group for up to £578 million ($727.4 million) and acquiring 100% of Legal & General Insurance for £242 million.

European stocks traded sharply lower Friday afternoon after U.S. President Donald Trump announced plans to impose a 5% tariff on all Mexican imports from June 10, stirring fears of a global recession.

European Markets: FTSE, GDAXI, FCHI, IBEX

The pan-European Stoxx 600 finished provisionally down 0.8% having earlier hit its lowest point since February 19. Autos led the losses with a 2% drop as all but two sectors traded in the red. Utilities stocks were the best performer, up 0.22% during Friday trade.

President Trump announced the sweeping tariffs on Mexican goods Thursday afternoon in response to what he claimed is a "border crisis," throwing the fate of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, into question.

In Asia, stocks traded mixed Friday afternoon as China's manufacturing data missed analysts' expectations, Japan's Nikkei 225 leading losses with a 0.82% dip during afternoon trade. Shares of Asian automakers tumbled on the tariff news.

Stateside, investors are monitoring the fallout from the announcement of the tariffs, which President Trump said could increase to 25% by October 1 this year if Mexico doesn't stem the flow of undocumented migrants to the U.S. southern border. Prominent former diplomat John Negroponte told CNBC's "Street Signs" on Thursday evening U.S. time that the move was "bad politically and bad economically."

Amid the row over the U.S. blacklisting Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, China's Commerce Ministry said on Friday that it will draft a list of foreign companies, organisations and individuals that it deems "unreliable" for harming Chinese companies, further exacerbating the tech spin-off of the trade war between the world's largest economies.

Allianz went on a British buying spree Friday, snapping up the remaining 51% stake in U.K.-based LV General Insurance Group for up to £578 million ($727.4 million) and acquiring a 100% of Legal & General Insurance for £242 million. The two deals are set to make Allianz the second largest insurer in the U.K., but the company's shares traded 1.2% lower during the Friday session.

Italy reported fourth-quarter GDP of -0.1% quarter-on-quarter and 0% over the year. Italian Prime Minister Guiseppe Conte said the government's 2019 growth forecast remains plausible, despite the first-quarter downward revision.

The Bank of Italy also cautioned the anti-establishment government in Rome against widening the country's deficit, suggesting that 2019 public debt could rise more than forecast.

In terms of individual stocks, German payments company Wirecard traded 8.4% lower after a German newspaper Handelsblatt reported that the firm was among companies to have processed payments for a network of fraudulent trading websites.

Wizz Air shares fell 2.2% despite posting net profit Friday of 292 million euros ($325 million) in the 12 months to March 31.