Europe Markets

European markets close lower as coronavirus death toll rises

Key Points
  • The coronavirus continues to be a focus for international markets; the outbreak has already taken more than 170 lives and infected more than 7,711 in China, according to the latest update by China's National Health Commission.
  • The Bank of England (BOE) on Thursday held interest rates following Governor Mark Carney's final monetary policy meeting.

European markets closed lower on Thursday, weighed on by a rising coronavirus death toll and reacting to the U.S. Federal Reserve's decision to keep interest rates on hold.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 provisionally dropped 1% by the closing bell, with oil and gas stocks falling 2.6% to lead losses as most sectors and all major bourses slid into the red.

The coronavirus continues to be a focus for international markets; the outbreak has already taken more than 170 lives and infected more than 7,711 in China, according to the latest update by China's National Health Commission.

Stocks on Wall Street also took a downward turn amid the rising death toll from the virus, and markets were also subdued following the U.S. Federal Reserve's decision to keep interest rates on hold.

The central bank's Federal Open Market Committee said Wednesday it will hold its benchmark funds rate between 1.5% to 1.75%. The decision marked the second straight meeting the Fed made no changes to rates, following three consecutive reductions in 2019. The central bank affirmed its commitment to nudge up inflation to the 2% level.

In Europe, Brexit is on the agenda with European parliamentary lawmakers meeting for last time Thursday ahead of the U.K.'s departure at 11 p.m. London time on Friday.

The Bank of England (BOE) on Thursday held interest rates following Governor Mark Carney's final monetary policy meeting. Sterling jumped 0.5% against the dollar to trade at around $1.3084 after the central bank's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) voted 7-2 to keep the base rate at 0.75%.

Euro zone sentiment jumped in January as manufacturing confidence rose to its highest level since August, suggesting that the bloc may have enjoyed an economic uptick to begin the year, according to European Commission data published Thursday.

Earnings in focus

Deutsche Bank posted a full-year net loss of 5.3 billion euros ($5.8 billion) before the bell on Thursday, amid a huge transformation project. Shares of Germany's largest lender climbed 4.2% on signs of restructuring progress.

Oil titan Royal Dutch Shell reported a sharp fall in full-year net profit, citing challenging macroeconomic conditions and lower oil and gas prices. The stock fell 4% by the end of the session.

H&M shares jumped 9.4% to the top of the Stoxx 600 after the Swedish fashion retailer posted its first annual profit rise since 2015 and announced a management reshuffle.

BT Group shares fell 7.3% after slightly missing third-quarter earnings expectations and warning of a £500 million ($649.6 million) hit from the U.K.'s cap on Huawei technology.

British cybersecurity company Avast plunged 13.2% after announcing that it will close its Jumpshot analytics business, which recently found itself at the center of a data privacy scandal.