European stocks fell sharply on Thursday with investors digesting an economic warning from the U.S. Federal Reserve's Chairman Jerome Powell, and hopes of an imminent end to the crisis fading.
The pan-European Stoxx 600 dropped 2.1% by the close, with autos plunging 2.9% to lead losses as all sectors and major bourses finished in negative territory.
Declines in Europe come after Powell said Wednesday that policymakers may have to use additional policy weapons to pull the country out of an economic mire that has cost at least 20 million jobs and caused "a level of pain that is hard to capture in words."
"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," he said.
On Thursday, the U.S. Labor Department reported that a total of 2.981 million Americans filed unemployment insurance during the week ending May 9. The number came in worse than expectations of 2.7 million new claims, according to economists polled by Dow Jones. By the European close, stocks on Wall Street actually trimmed their losses and traded well off session lows as a rally in bank shares offset the dismal round of U.S. unemployment data.
Back in Europe, Zurich Insurance Group on Thursday booked $280 million property and casualty claims in the first quarter due to the coronavirus pandemic and warned that claims could total around $750 million this year.
At the bottom of the European blue chip index, Britain's Countryside Properties plummeted by more than 17% after the coronavirus hammered its earnings, with first-half adjusted operating profit falling 38%.
At the top of the Stoxx 600, Sweden's NIBE Industrier climbed by 3.7%.
- CNBC's Jeff Cox and Eustance Huang contributed to this market report.