European stocks closed slightly higher Thursday, after fluctuating for much of the session, as investors reacted to a record number of U.S. jobless claims and movements in the energy markets.
The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed up by 0.2%, with oil and gas stocks jumping over 5%. The sector was boosted by news that Saudi Arabia and Russia could soon ease pressure on oil, ending a price war that has contributed to crude's massive plunge.
Earlier in the session, the U.S. Labor Department reported more than 6 million people had filed for unemployment benefits in the week of March 27, marking a record high. But stocks on Wall Street were higher as European markets closed on Thursday afternoon.
Global markets continue to digest developments regarding the coronavirus pandemic. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. surpassed 200,000 on Wednesday, doubling since Friday.
President Donald Trump has warned that the country could see an even greater surge in cases over the next few weeks. White House officials are projecting 100,000 to 240,000 deaths in the U.S., with coronavirus fatalities peaking over the next two weeks. The country is rolling out broader testing as outbreaks pop up in more and more cities.
Back in Europe, Carnival plunged 22% while corporate bank Natixis dropped 11%. British recruitment giant Hays slid 13% after announcing an emergency £200 million ($248.2 million) equity raise and canceling its dividend, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to hit demand.
— CNBC's Eustance Huang and Pippa Stevens contributed to this market report.