Markets

European stocks close higher, but down 19% on the week in worst sell-off since 2008

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Key Points
  • The pan-European Stoxx 600 benchmark plunged 11% on Thursday to record its biggest one-day loss ever.
  • Italy remains the worst impacted country in Europe from the coronavirus and is now in total shutdown.
  • The coronavirus has now infected more than 137,000 people worldwide, with over 5,000 deaths, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University.

European stocks closed higher on Friday, but logged major losses for the week as the rapid spread of the coronavirus pandemic continued to dominate investor sentiment.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed up just shy of 1%, with basic resources higher by 5.3%, autos up 1.5% and utilities up 2.7% as nearly all sectors and major bourses finished firmly in positive territory.

However, the benchmark was down 18.7% on the week, the worst since October 2008, after plunging 11% on Thursday to record its biggest one-day loss ever. Markets had reacted to U.S. President Donald Trump's announcement of travel restrictions from the European Schengen area and the European Central Bank's decision not to cut interest rates.

The coronavirus has now infected more than 137,000 people worldwide, with over 5,000 deaths, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University. Italy remains the worst impacted country in Europe and is now facing total shutdown, with cases surpassing 15,000 and over 1,000 deaths.

Swiss diagnostics giant Roche announced on Friday that it has received emergency authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a new coronavirus test. Shares climbed 3.1% on Friday.

Stateside on Friday afternoon, stocks gave up most of their earlier rally as Wall Street tried to rebound from the sharp losses suffered in the previous session — the worst since the "Black Monday" market crash in 1987. On Thursday, the Dow plummeted 2,352.6 points or 9.99% and the S&P 500 tumbled 9.5% to join the Dow in a bear market.

Back in Europe, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday that up to 10,000 people in the U.K. may be infected with the virus, while BT confirmed that its CEO Philip Jansen had tested positive for COVID-19.

EU banking regulators have delayed this year's banking stress test and eased capital rules to encourage lenders not to switch off the faucets to a euro zone economy ailing from the pandemic fallout.

Elsewhere, Italy's Leonardo jumped 5% after announcing an expected rise in free operating cash flow and investment targets of up to 700 million euros ($782.4 million).

Wirecard shares gained 5% after the German payments company said an independent audit found no manipulation of its financial statements.