Europe Markets

European stocks close lower on coronavirus fears and dovish ECB tone

Key Points
  • The Stoxx 600 was down 0.7%, with most sectors and bourses in negative territory.
  • The coronavirus death toll continues to rise; 17 people have now died from the virus.
  • The ECB held interest rates steady and launched its first strategic review since 2003.

European markets closed lower on Thursday amid increasing concerns over the spread of the China coronavirus, while dovish tones from the European Central Bank (ECB) exerted further downward pressure.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed provisionally down by 0.7%, with most sectors and major bourses in negative territory. Basic resources stocks led the losses with a 2.9% decline.

The ECB held its interest rates steady Thursday, with President Christine Lagarde's remarks on the economic outlook for the euro zone seemingly disappointing market participants.

The ECB on Thursday held interest rates steady and launched its first strategic review since 2003, in a bid to establish whether its inflation target is still appropriate.

Markets reacted negatively to a slightly more dovish tone than anticipated from Lagarde, as the former IMF chief told a press conference in Frankfurt that the risks were still "tiled to the downside."

On Wall Street, equities fell as investors pored through the latest batch of corporate earnings results and grappled with fears of the coronavirus spreading.

The coronavirus remains at the forefront of investor concerns as the death toll from the disease continues to rise; 17 people have now died from the virus and there have been nearly 600 confirmed cases of the infection.

The World Health Organization postponed a decision Wednesday over whether to declare the disease a global health emergency. Beginning Thursday morning Beijing time, all public transportation was suspended in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the outbreak is believed to have started.

The outbreak comes ahead of the Lunar New Year period which is set to kick off on Saturday, with hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens expected to travel domestically or abroad during the period.

Stocks on the move

The biggest mover was German construction company Hochtief, which saw its shares plunge 8% after its Cimic unit forecast a $1.23 billion hit for its exit from the Middle East. Spain's ACS, which holds a majority stake in Hochtief, fell 5%.

Renault shares fell 5% after Citigroup downgraded the stock to "sell," while Russian mining company Evraz's London-listed stock tumbled 6%.

At the top of the European benchmark, STMicro climbed nearly 7% after reporting strong fourth-quarter earnings and optimistic guidance. Novozymes stock also gained about 7% after the Danish biotech company's CEO said the roll-out of its new freshness platform is going according to plan.