Europe Markets

European markets close lower as Brexit uncertainty weighs; ECB boosts stimulus

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Key Points
  • U.K. and European officials vowed to decide on a potential post-Brexit trade agreement by the weekend.
  • The ECB expanded its massive monetary stimulus program by another 500 billion euros ($605 billion).
  • Hellofresh climbed nearly 15% after the German meal kit delivery company increased its full-year guidance.

LONDON — European stocks closed lower Thursday as investors tracked the parlous state of Brexit trade talks, as well as fresh stimulus measures from the European Central Bank (ECB).

The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed down by 0.4%, with banks tumbling 2% to lead losses following the ECB's latest policy decision, while the oil and gas sector bucked the negative trend to climb 1.5%.

U.K. and European officials vowed to make a formal decision on the future of post-Brexit trade talks by the end of the weekend, following an in-person meeting between British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday evening.

Talks remain at an impasse over several key issues, including fishing rights and competition rules. Downing Street said "very large gaps" remain, while Von der Leyen described the two sides as "far apart." EU leaders are gathering in Brussels Thursday for a two-day EU Council meeting.

Meanwhile, the European Central Bank on Thursday expanded its massive monetary stimulus program by another 500 billion euros ($605 billion), taking its total value to 1.85 trillion euros and extending the time horizon for asset purchases until March 2022.

The ECB held interest rates on its main refinancing operations, marginal lending facility and deposit facility at 0.00%, 0.25% and -0.50%, respectively.

On Wall Street, U.S. stocks were mixed following the release of weaker-than-expected jobless claims data at a time when lawmakers struggle to push through new fiscal stimulus before year-end. Initial weekly jobless claims jumped to 853,000 last week, topping a Dow Jones estimate of 730,000.

Back in Europe, U.K. GDP grew by 0.4% in October, official figures revealed Thursday, slowing from 1.1% in September.

In terms of individual share price movement, Hellofresh climbed nearly 15% after the German meal kit delivery company increased its full-year guidance on Wednesday.

At the bottom of the European blue chip index, online supermarket Ocado fell 7% after the company raised its forward guidance but noted that sales growth at a new joint retail venture had slowed.

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- CNBC.com staff contributed to this market report.