European stocks closed lower on Thursday as euro zone PMI (purchasing managers' index) data indicated another slowdown in activity for the region's manufacturing and services industry in May.
Germany's DAX index closed 1.4% lower provisionally, while France's CAC 40 dropped 1.2% and Britain's FTSE 100 declined 0.8%. Due to the Ascension Day public holiday, markets are closed in Switzerland, Austria, Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
IHS Markit euro zone PMI data Thursday morning showed that economic activity contracted less drastically in May, with many countries in the bloc taking steps to reopen their economies.
The composite PMI reading, covering both manufacturing and services, came in at 30.5 compared to April's all-time low of 13.6. While considerably better than expectations, the figure remains well below the 50 mark, which separates contraction from expansion.
The U.K. also saw a slower pace of PMI contraction in May, with Thursday's composite reading coming in at 28.9 versus April's 13.8.
Investors are also following the latest coronavirus news. The World Health Organization said the number of newly-reported cases globally hit a daily record this week, despite authorities around the world attempting to ease lockdown measures put in place to curb the virus' spread.
On Wall Street, stocks also fell as new jobless claims hit 2.44 million last week as the tail effects of the coronavirus shutdown continued to impact the U.S. jobs market.
In terms of individual share price action, Italian bank Nexi, formerly known as Istituto Centrale delle Banche Popolari Italiane, climbed nearly 8%. Reuters reported one trader as citing the return of rumors about a possible tie-up with smaller rival SIA.
Lufthansa shares climbed almost 3% after the German carrier announced it was in talks over a $10-billion state rescue deal.
British hospitality chain Whitbread plunged over 13% after announcing a plan to raise $1.2 billion via a rights issue, while Altice Europe tumbled around 14% after disappointing first-quarter earnings.