Europe Markets

European shares close 3% higher in rocky session after ECB, BOE stimulus

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Key Points
  • Data published Thursday showed German business sentiment plummeting in March.
  • There are over 229,000 confirmed cases of the virus worldwide and at least 9,324 lives have been taken by the disease, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.

European markets closed higher Thursday, after fluctuating for much of the session, with investors monitoring the coronavirus outbreak and digesting new policy announcements from the European Central Bank (ECB) and the Bank of England (BOE).

The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed up 2.9% after rebounding either side of the flatline throughout the day. Telecoms stocks jumped 5% to lead gains while basic resources fell 0.4%.

The Bank of England announced another surprise interest rate cut on Thursday afternoon and ratcheted up its bond-buying program, in an effort to offset the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

This came after the European Central Bank announced a new "Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme" on Wednesday night that will use 750 billion euros to purchase securities to help support the European economy.

"The ECB will ensure that all sectors of the economy can benefit from supportive financing conditions that enable them to absorb this shock," the central bank said in a release. "This applies equally to families, firms, banks and governments. The Governing Council will do everything necessary within its mandate."

Data published Thursday showed German business sentiment plummeting in March. The preliminary ifo Business Climate Index plummeted from 96.0 points in February to 87.7 points in March, the biggest drop since 1991 and bringing the index to its lowest level since August 2009.

More broadly, investors are still focused on the coronavirus pandemic. There are over 229,000 confirmed cases of the virus worldwide and at least 9,324 lives have been taken by the disease, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.

Stateside, stocks on Wall Street jumped on Thursday, erasing steep losses from earlier in the day as sharp gains in big-tech shares led to a sharp turnaround.

Biggest movers

British-American cruise operator Carnival jumped 18% in afternoon trade to lead gains among European blue chips.

At the bottom of the Stoxx 600, Osram Licht shares fell 20% amid ongoing doubt over its takeover by chipmaker AMS, while asset manager Investec and homebuilder Hammerson both shed around 13%.

— CNBC's Thomas Franck and Eustance Huang contributed reporting to this story.