LONDON — European markets closed lower on Thursday, the final trading day of a year dominated by the coronavirus pandemic and extraordinary stimulus measures that have tried to mitigate the economic hit from the health crisis.
The pan-European Stoxx 600 index closed 0.14% lower on New Year's Eve after a shorter trading session. London's FTSE index closed 1.45% lower on the final day that the U.K. is a de-facto member of the EU's single market and customs union before Brexit is definitively implemented.
U.K. banks, retailers and home builders were among the stocks trading lower Thursday, with sentiment likely affected by both Brexit uncertainty and further restrictions on public life announced by the U.K. government on Wednesday due to the rate of coronavirus infection.
Year-to-date, the Stoxx 600 index closed down 3.8%, however it was up nearly 11% for the quarter. Looking at individual indexes, the FTSE was down over 14% year-to-date, marking its worst year since 2008.
Nearly all European markets ended 2020 on a somber note, following lackluster end-of-year trade in Asia and with U.S. stock futures largely flat early Thursday morning. Markets in Europe closed early on Thursday, by 1 p.m. London time.
Shares in Asia-Pacific were mixed on Thursday, as multiple markets in the region also closed early for New Year's Eve. Chinese shares rose in afternoon trade, however, after China said its factory activity expanded in December.
In addition, it was announced Wednesday that China and the EU had agreed to an investment deal that will give firms in Europe more access to Chinese markets. Negotiations had stalled earlier this year prior to the U.S. presidential election in November.
In individual stocks news, Airbus shares slipped 1.6% after U.S. trade officials said they were increasing tariffs on certain EU products, including aircraft-related parts and wines from France and Germany. The move is the latest action in a 16-year dispute over civil aviation subsidies involving Europe-based Airbus and its U.S.-based competitor Boeing.