Europe Markets

European stocks close lower with traders cautious on possible coronavirus treatment

Key Points
  • The pan-European Stoxx 600 provisionally closed down more than 1%, with most sectors and major bourses in negative territory.
  • Travel and leisure shares were the worst performers, down over 3%.
  • Risk sentiment was hit by a report that drug remdesivir from Gilead had failed to improve patients' conditions.

European stocks closed lower on Friday as traders monitored fresh economic data and digested a report that raised doubts over a possible coronavirus treatment.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 provisionally closed down more than 1%, with most sectors and major bourses in negative territory. Travel and leisure shares were the worst performers, down over 3%.

Risk sentiment took a hit late on Thursday after a report in the Financial Times, citing documents accidentally published by the WHO, said that drug remdesivir from Gilead had failed to improve patients' conditions. 

Gilead noted that study was "terminated early due to low enrollment," leaving it "underpowered to enable statistically meaningful conclusions. As such, the study results are inconclusive."

Elsewhere, EU leaders agreed Thursday evening to develop a trillion-euro emergency fund to help support governments with limited fiscal space. However, they did not give any indication about the size of the fund or whether it will be made up of loans or grants.

Sentiment was also dampened by a report from the U.K.'s Office for National Statistics (ONS), which revealed on Friday that British retail sales had fallen at the fastest rate on record in March.

On Wall Street, stocks were marginally lower as investors wrapped up another volatile week that featured unprecedented moves in the oil market.

Earnings in focus

Investors were also digesting a slew of earnings from European companies on Friday. 

Nestle posted better-than-expected results for the first quarter, reporting a 4.3% rise in organic sales as consumers stockpiled food amid coronavirus lockdowns. Shares were up nearly 2%.

French drugmaker Sanofi's stock was also lifted, with shares gaining almost 3% after the company confirmed its 2020 outlook. 

Meanwhile, lighting manufacturer Signify surged to the top of the European benchmark after reporting an increase in first-quarter cash flow. Shares were almost 14% higher. 

At the other end of the Stoxx 600, airlines Lufthansa and Tui fell around 9% and 8% respectively.

British cinema chain Cineworld's shares shed over 9%, continuing the company's losses from previous sessions.