Europe Markets

European shares close 2% lower as coronavirus fears weigh on investor confidence

Key Points
  • Investors remained cautious over a recent resurgence in coronavirus cases in certain countries regionally as they start to reopen their economies.
  • U.K. GDP (gross domestic product) contracted by 5.8% month-on-month in March, according to preliminary figures released Wednesday, the sharpest monthly decline on record.

European stocks closed sharply lower on Wednesday as concerns over a second wave of coronavirus infections, and the timing of a vaccine, weighs on investor sentiment.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 dropped 2% by the close, with travel and leisure stocks falling 4.8% to lead losses as all sectors and major bourses finished in negative territory.

European markets followed the negative trend set in Asia, where investors remained cautious over a recent resurgence in coronavirus cases in certain countries regionally as they start to reopen their economies.

More than 4.2 million people around the world have been infected by the virus now, while 293,514 people have died, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

In the U.S., stocks fell as investors grappled with concerns around the economy reopening as well as remarks from the top-ranking Federal Reserve official.

"While the economic response has been both timely and appropriately large, it may not be the final chapter, given that the path ahead is both highly uncertain and subject to significant downside risks," Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said in prepared remarks.

Several countries in Asia, including China and South Korea, have experienced an uptick in cases after restrictions were eased.

Back in Europe, U.K. GDP (gross domestic product) contracted by 5.8% month-on-month in March, according to preliminary figures released Wednesday, the sharpest monthly decline on record.

Earnings in focus

It was a busy morning for earnings on Wednesday. 

Commerzbank swung to a loss in the first quarter as the coronavirus pandemic and increased loan loss provisions weighed on Germany's second-largest lender. The bank posted a net loss of 295 million euros ($319.99 million). Commerzbank shares were down 7% by the close.

TUI Group announced in its half-year financial report that it will ax up to 8,000 jobs in an effort to cut costs as the pandemic and shutdowns around the world ravage the travel industry. Tui shares edged 1.6% lower.

Shipping giant Maersk posted a 23% rise in first-quarter earnings before tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) but warned of a sharp drop in global container volumes as a result of the pandemic. Moller-Maersk shares slid 5.8%.

ABN AMRO posted a 395 million euro first-quarter loss and warned that provisions for bad loans could soar to 2.5 billion euros this year. The Dutch lender's shares plunged 9%.

Biggest movers

Chipmaker AMS saw its stock slide 8% after unveiling its AGM (annual general meeting) proposals. Cinema operator Cineworld also shed more than 13%.

At the top of the European benchmark, Swiss-listed eyecare company Alcon climbed more than 4% after its first-quarter earnings.