Markets

European markets close lower amid coronavirus spike; Travel and leisure stocks fall 3.4%

Key Points
  • The pan-European Stoxx 600 provisionally ended 0.5% lower, with most sectors and major bourses in negative territory.
  • Cases of Covid-19 have now passed 30 million worldwide, resulting in more than 946,000 deaths. The World Health Organization warned on Thursday of a "very serious situation" arising in Europe as cases rise significantly.
  • In corporate news, the boards of Spanish lenders Caixabank and state-owned Bankia have approved a merger plan that will create the country's largest bank.

European stocks closed lower on Friday as investors monitored a rise in coronavirus cases across the continent and the prospects of economic recovery.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 provisionally ended 0.5% lower, with most sectors and major bourses in negative territory. Travel and leisure stocks dropped more than 3.4% to lead losses, while healthcare stocks rose 0.5%.

Cases of Covid-19 have now passed 30 million worldwide, resulting in more than 946,000 deaths. The World Health Organization warned on Thursday of a "very serious situation" arising in Europe as cases rise significantly across the continent, forcing a reimplementation of lockdown measures in certain regions. 

A Reuters poll of economists suggested that the resurgences in coronavirus cases pose the biggest threat to the euro zone's economic recovery, with growth and inflation more likely to present negative surprises than positive ones in the coming year.

European markets are set to receive a broadly positive handover from Asia-Pacific, where mainland Chinese stocks led a cautious rise during Friday's trade, breaking from another sell-off on Wall Street driven by further losses for tech megastocks. U.S. markets also look set for a mixed open on Friday.

Amid a tumultuous period for Brexit negotiations, EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier told envoys in Brussels on Thursday that a deal with the U.K. is still possible, Reuters reported citing diplomatic sources.

In corporate news, the boards of Spanish lenders Caixabank and state-owned Bankia have approved a merger plan that will create the country's largest bank.

Swiss drugmaker Roche announced Friday that a study had indicated that one of its drugs reduced the likelihood of patients with Covid-19 related pneumonia requiring a ventilator.

On the data front, British retail sales rose by 0.8% in August, continuing a steady incline and slightly outpacing average economist expectations, according to official figures released Friday.

In terms of individual share price action, German raw materials company Covestro climbed 7% after denying reports that it is subject to a takeover bid from private equity firm Apollo.

At the bottom of the European blue-chip index, digital payments company Network International plunged more than 15% while British Airways parent IAG tumbled more than 11%.