Europe Markets

European stocks close lower as investors monitor coronavirus and earnings; Air France KLM down 3%

Key Points
  • China's National Health Commission reported an additional 114 deaths from the virus, and 394 new confirmed cases.
  • A multitude of companies reported earnings Thursday, including Air France-KLM, Telefonica and Swiss Re.

European markets closed lower Thursday despite a slowdown in the spread of the coronavirus in mainland China, as disappointing earnings weighed on investor sentiment.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed down 0.6% provisionally, with insurance stocks shedding 1.7% to lead losses while auto shares were among the only gainers, climbing 0.7%.

European markets are bucking the trend seen from their Asian counterparts, where stocks advanced Thursday on hopes that the coronavirus outbreak could be slowing amid a decline in the number of new cases of the virus, and from extra stimulus measures from China.

On Wall Street, market sentiment was broadly negative, with all the major indexes falling around 1%.

As of February 20, China's National Health Commission reported an additional 114 deaths from the virus, and 394 new confirmed cases. That brings the total deaths in the mainland to 2,118 and the confirmed cases to 74,576 cases. The number of new cases was drastically lower than the 1,749 reported the day before. It came a day after Beijing altered its previous diagnosis protocol.

Meanwhile, oil prices jumped on Thursday, extending gains from the previous session as concerns over possible supply disruptions and a decline in demand were allayed with the sharp drop in new coronavirus cases.

In corporate news, UBS has announced that ING Groep's Ralph Hamers will succeed outgoing CEO Sergio Ermotti in November, becoming the second major Swiss lender this month to replace its CEO. Shares of both banks were slightly higher by the close.

On the data front, U.K. retail sales rebounded in January to rise 0.9% on the month, following a 0.5% fall in December, Britain's Office for National Statistics said on Thursday.

Earnings in focus

Earnings are a key driver of individual share price action Thursday. Shares of Sweden's Elekta tumbled 7% after the medical equipment maker missed third-quarter profit expectations amid a sharp fall in U.S. orders.

Air France KLM reported a fall in profits in 2019 and warned that the coronavirus could hit its operating profit by up to 200 million euros between February and April ($215.75 million). The Franco-Dutch carrier saw its shares slide over 3%.

Telefonica stock fell almost 4% after swinging to a fourth-quarter net loss, while Swiss Re dropped more than 7% to the bottom of the Stoxx 600 after missing 2019 profit expectations.

At the top of the European benchmark, Tomra systems surged 19% to a record high after strong fourth-quarter earnings, while Moneysupermarket also jumped nearly 19% on the back a return to profit growth and stronger 2019 revenue.