European stocks closed lower on Thursday as Sino-U.S. relations came under strain over Hong Kong, fueling concerns a "phase one" trade deal between the two powerhouses may be pushed into 2020.
The pan-European Stoxx 600 was 0.4% lower at the closing bell, with almost every sector and all major bourses in negative territory. Basic resources, a sector heavily exposed to China, slipped 1.5% to lead losses, while autos stocks bucked the trend to end the session above the flatline.
Reports emerged Thursday that China had invited U.S. negotiators to Beijing for another round of trade talks, but this did little to improve market sentiment after days of mixed signals.
Both chambers of U.S. Congress passed a bill supporting Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters on Wednesday, placing President Donald Trump in a potential quandary as he tries to strike a trade deal with China.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Beijing "condemns and firmly opposes" the first bill, according to Reuters.
Reuters also reported Wednesday, citing trade experts and sources close to the Trump administration, that completion of a partial deal could be delayed until 2020 as China pursues more comprehensive tariff rollbacks.
Across the Atlantic, stocks on Wall Street also ticked lower as investors monitored the simmering Sino-U.S. tensions.
Back in Europe, a flash estimate released by the European Commission showed consumer confidence in the euro zone rose slightly between October and November.
In corporate news, Thyssenkrupp on Thursday reported a widening full-year net loss for fiscal 2019 and downgraded its 2020 outlook. The German giant's stock plunged nearly 14% by the end of the session.
British utility Centrica saw its shares rise 9% and Direct Line climbed 6.3% after positive third-quarter trading updates.
Royal Mail stock tumbled 14% to the bottom of the European blue chip index after its first-half earnings report, with the British postal near-monopoly seen to have fallen behind on its turnaround plan.