Europe Markets

European markets close slightly lower as coronavirus concerns weigh on sentiment

Key Points
  • The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed down by 0.1%, pulling back from gains earlier in the session.
  • Investors digested news of suspensions to Covid-19 drug trials from Eli Lilly's and Johnson & Johnson.
  • Atlantia shares climbed over 9% after news of progress in a deal to sell the firm's stake in its motorway unit.

LONDON — European stocks closed slightly lower on Wednesday as coronavirus concerns weighed on global markets.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed down by around 0.1%, pulling back from earlier gains, with health stocks shaving off 0.6% while utilities rose over 0.8%.

The pandemic remains the key concern for investors with discouraging news that a pair of coronavirus drug trials have been paused in the U.S. over safety concerns.

Eli Lilly's antibody treatment trial has been put on hold, the company confirmed to CNBC, and Johnson & Johnson announced Monday it has paused late-stage trials of its coronavirus vaccine candidate. While brief suspensions are routine in the world of drug trials, the latest cast added uncertainty on drug development timelines.

On Wall Street, stocks slipped into the red as traders digested another batch of corporate earnings and looked for clues on further coronavirus aid.

Investors are also considering the global economic outlook after the International Monetary Fund revised its forecasts for economic growth this year. The global economy is now projected to contract by 4.4% in 2020 — an upward revision from an estimate of -4.9% made in June (which itself was revised to -5.2% due to a new methodology used by the IMF).

Atlantia shares climbed more than 9% by the close after Italian newspapers La Repubblica and Il Messagero reported that state lender CDP has partnered with Blackstone and Macquarie to ready a bid for the infrastructure firm's stake in its motorway unit.

Toward the bottom of the Stoxx 600, Proximus shares fell almost 4% after Barclays cut the Belgian telecoms company's stock to "underweight."