Europe Markets

European stocks close higher; US jobless claims balloon to record high

Key Points
  • U.S. jobless claims skyrocketed to 3.28 million last week, according to initial figures released Thursday, as widespread shutdowns resulting from the coronavirus outbreak begin to take their toll.
  • However, markets did not react unfavorably, as investors seemingly bet on the unprecedented spike leading to further stimulus.
  • In Europe, EU leaders will hold a virtual summit to discuss their response to the coronavirus outbreak amid some criticisms of a lack of coordinated response to the crisis.

European markets closed higher Thursday after U.S. jobless claims ballooned to a record high amid the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed up 1.8%, reversing earlier losses, with travel and leisure stocks climbing almost 6% and autos slipping marginally into negative territory.

U.S. jobless claims skyrocketed to 3.28 million last week, according to initial figures released Thursday, as widespread shutdowns resulting from the coronavirus outbreak begin to take their toll. However, markets did not react unfavorably, as investors seemingly bet on the unprecedented spike leading to further stimulus.

The initial moves in global markets came after Washington's pledge of massive aid for the economy to mitigate the impact of the virus. The Senate unanimously approved a $2 trillion economic relief package late Wednesday and the stimulus bill now heads to the House, which will push to pass it by voice vote Friday morning as most representatives are out of Washington. 

In Europe, EU leaders will hold a virtual summit to discuss their response to the coronavirus outbreak amid some criticisms of a lack of coordinated response to the crisis. Italy and Spain are the worst-hit countries in Europe, with the death toll in each country surpassing 7,000 and 3,500 respectively. The death toll in the U.S. has now surpassed 1,000.

The Bank of England on Thursday held rates steady and promised more asset purchases if needed to cushion the economic blow from the virus.

For the latest news on the coronavirus outbreak, follow CNBC's live blog here.

In terms of individual share price action, stock exchange provider Euronext tumbled more than 11% while British IT company Micro Focus shed 10.7%.

French corporate bank Natixis jumped 11.4% in afternoon trade to lead the European benchmark.

There are no major earnings or data releases Thursday.

– CNBC's Pippa Stevens and Eustance Huang contributed reporting to this story.