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European markets close slightly lower as Brexit fears resurface

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Key Points
  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday that talks were in a "serious situation" and a deal is unlikely unless the EU is willing to alter its position on fisheries.
  • An influential U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel on Thursday overwhelmingly approved Moderna's coronavirus vaccine for emergency use.

LONDON — European markets closed lower on Friday as British and European leaders struck a pessimistic tone about the prospect of a post-Brexit trade deal.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 provisionally closed 0.33% lower, with sectors pointing in opposite directions. Retail shares slid the most, losing 1.8%, while telecoms were up over 0.2%.

European Union Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier warned Friday that time was running out for an agreement to be reached on a new trading arrangement after Britain leaves the EU's orbit on December 31.

"We have little time remaining, just a few hours, to work through these negotiations in a useful fashion if we want the agreement to enter into force on the 1st January," Barnier said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday that talks were in a "serious situation" and a deal is unlikely unless the EU is willing to alter its position on fisheries, a long-standing spanner in the works.

His remarks came following a call with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who also said reaching an accord would now be "very challenging" with the two sides diverging on key issues.

On Wall Street, U.S. stocks slipped from record highs on Friday as lawmakers rushed to bridge differences on additional coronavirus stimulus measures.

An influential U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel on Thursday overwhelmingly approved Moderna's coronavirus vaccine for emergency use, a key step towards distributing the second Covid-19 vaccine in the United States next week, having already cleared the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Meanwhile, lawmakers on Capitol Hill said they are close to an agreement that would supply $900 billion in additional aid.

On the data front, U.K. consumer confidence made its sharpest climb in eight years in December, with a survey released Friday from market research firm GfK jumping to -26 from -33 in November, as the rollout of the first Covid-19 vaccine program in the country lifted sentiment.

Germany's closely watched Ifo business climate survey rose in December, with Friday's reading coming in at 92.1 to surpass expectations of 90.0 from economists polled by Reuters.

In terms of individual share price moves, Copenhagen-listed machine supplier Rockwood International gained over 6% to lead the Stoxx 600 by market close, while property developer Landsec dropped 6%.

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