Europe Shares Close Sharply Down on Fed Fears

European shares closed sharply lower on Thursday, after a huge 7.3 percent drop in Japan's Nikkei index. The sell-off was sparked by weak China data and fears the Federal Reserve may end its asset-purchasing program sooner than expected.

(Read More: Global Markets Reel After Nikkei's 7.3% Slide)

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 Index closed unofficially 2 percent lower at 1,231.13 points, mirroring losses in the U.S. and Asia. This was the index's biggest one-day fall since July last year.

(Read More: Nikkei Closes Down Over 7% After Volatile Session)

The minutes from the Fed's April meeting, released on Wednesday, showed "a number of participants" expressed willingness to scale back its $85 billion a month asset purchases, possibly as soon as June.

(Read More: 'Tectonic Plate Shift' for Markets on Fed Fears)


Meanwhile, the U.S. reported manufacturing growth slipped to a seven-month low in May, after China posted soft manufacturing data earlier on Thursday. Basic resources stocks in Europe sold-off on the news, closing around 3.20 percent lower.

(Read More: Does Asia Slump Signal US Bump or Correction?)

Also in Europe, flash PMI data showed the downturn in euro zone business eased slightly this month, although a dearth of new orders means the region's economy is likely to contract again in the second quarter.

(Read More: Euro Zone Slump Eases but New Orders Dry Up)

In the U.K., the Office for National Statistics's second estimate of first quarter GDP came in unchanged at 0.3 percent. This suggests the U.K. has avoided the so-called 'triple-dip' recession.