Europe Markets

European shares close 4% lower despite multi-billion dollar stimulus pledges; oil stocks down 10%

Key Points
  • Global markets reacted to multi-billion dollar pledges from various governments to help the economy during the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Plane manufacturer Airbus fell 20% after Reuters reported that the U.S. is set to boost tariffs on its planes by 50% on Wednesday.

European markets sank Wednesday, despite Western governments promising to unleash billions of dollars to help businesses and citizens get through the coronavirus pandemic.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed down 4%, with oil and gas stocks plunging nearly 10% to lead losses as all sectors and major bourses slid deep into negative territory.

Sterling slid below $1.19 on Wednesday to hit its lowest point since October 2016 as liquidity concerns sent the dollar surging and hammered currencies around the world. 

Global markets are reacting to multi-billion dollar pledges from various governments to help the economy during the coronavirus outbreak. Confirmed cases have now surpassed 205,000 worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University.

On Tuesday, the White House said it is seeking a stimulus package worth anywhere from $850 billion to more than $1 trillion as the Trump administration looked to battle the economic impact from the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.K. also announced a near-$400 billion package to help businesses through the crisis. The government said it would do "whatever it takes" to protect the economy and livelihoods.

Oil prices slipped to almost two-decade lows Wednesday. Brent futures collapsed 11% to their lowest level since September, 2003 and U.S. West Texas Intermediate tumbled 18% to lows not seen since March, 2002.

International benchmark Brent crude traded at $25.53 Wednesday afternoon, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) stood at $22.21.

"As the long-time purveyor of global spare capacity, Saudi Arabia is reopening the oil spigots after having done most of the heavy lifting in curbing supply," Stephen Brennock, oil analyst at PVM Oil Associates, said in a research note.

"Put simply, the Saudis are in for the long haul," he added, referring to the oil-rich kingdom's price war with non-OPEC leader Russia.

Stateside on Wednesday, U.S. stocks tumbled as financial markets remained highly volatile on Wall Street.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 1,400 points, or more than 6.5%. The S&P 500 fell 6.1% while the Nasdaq Composite slid nearly 5%.

Biggest movers

Back in Europe, SSP Group, Wood Group and Travis Perkins all fell by more than 25% by mid-afternoon.

Plane manufacturer Airbus fell 20% after Reuters reported that the U.S. is set to boost tariffs on its planes by 50% on Wednesday.

At the top of the European benchmark, shares of cinema operator Cineworld jumped more than 150% after suffering a historic collapse over the past month to hit an all-time low on Tuesday.

- CNBC's Kevin Breuninger, Lauren Hirsch and Eustance Huang contributed to this report.