Europe Markets

European stocks close lower as investors watch omicron, economic data; UniCredit surges

Key Points
  • Global markets have rallied in recent days as traders bet that the omicron Covid variant's economic impact won't be as severe as initially thought.
  • In the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson has moved to tighten Covid restrictions in an effort to prevent a spike in hospitalizations and deaths during winter.
  • As for economic data, first time U.S. jobless claims last week came in at 184,000, the lowest weekly tally since 1969.

LONDON — European stocks closed lower on Thursday, as investors continued to monitor developments around the omicron Covid variant and look ahead to key U.S. economic data.

European markets


The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed down by 0.1% provisionally, having started the day on a positive note. Oil and gas stocks fell 1.1% to lead the losses as most sectors and major bourses fell into the red.

Global markets have rallied in recent days as traders bet that the omicron Covid variant's economic impact won't be as severe as initially thought. Still, some experts have urged caution, saying there are still unknowns about the variant.

On Wall Street, the major U.S. averages fell Thursday after posting a third straight day of gains Wednesday. Asia-Pacific markets closed mixed as investors assessed risks surrounding the new variant.

In the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson has moved to tighten Covid in an effort to prevent a spike in hospitalizations and deaths during winter. It comes as the government faces growing outcry over an alleged Christmas party in Downing Street last year that breached Covid rules.

Aside from omicron, investors also had an eye on economic data. The latest weekly jobless claims numbers from the U.S. showed the number of first-time-filers came in at 184,000, the lowest weekly tally since 1969 and well below the 211,000 Dow Jones estimate.

Attention is now turning to key inflation data due to be released on Friday. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones expect consumer prices in November to have grown 6.7% year-over-year. If that is the case, it would mark the biggest move since June 1982.

In terms of individual share price movement, UniCredit jumped nearly 11% after the Italian lender announced that it plans to pay out at least 16 billion euros ($18.11 billion) in share buybacks and dividends to shareholders by 2024.

At the bottom of the index, Polish postal locker company InPost fell over 8%.

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CNBC's Ryan Browne contributed to this report.