Europe's major indexes closed lower across the board Thursday despite assurances from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke that he would act agressively to counter the risks of a U.S. recession.
"Finally the Fed has got the message that there is a huge slowdown (and) the U.S. economy is headed towards a recession," said Nick Parsons from nabCapital Markets to "European Closing Bell."
In corporate news, Swiss pharma Novartis reported fourth-quarter profit that missed analysts' expectations, hit by a higher than expected restructuring charge. But the No. 2 European drug maker limited damage to its share price by announcing a $9.2 billion share buyback program and raised its dividend.
The company also maintained its existing outlook, despite predicting it could be hit by a U.S. downturn. Shares ended lower by 3.4 percent.
Also in Switzerland, computer mouse maker Logitech reported a slightly lower than expected 42 percent rise in third-quarter profit. But the company confirmed its sales target of 15 percent growth and increased its year-over-year operating income growth goal to more than 20 percent. The previously stated goal for operating income growth was 20 percent.
Meanwhile, Credit Suisse said it plans to build a comprehensive wealth management business in the U.S. after the company said its flagship private bank was "well positioned to excel in the current market conditions." The decision comes as rival UBS says it will wind down its American private banking operations. Shares of Credit Suisse closed 1.4 percent lower as concerns over the U.S. economy gave investors less reason to buy banking stocks.
In France, engineering company Alstom's shares ended 3.1 percent higher after it posted better-than-expected third-quarter sales, up 20 percent and confirmed its forecasts for the full 2007/8 financial year.
Belgian retailer Delhaize, which makes most of its sales in the US, said its fourth-quarter sales fell as expected, hurt by the weaker dollar. But the stock rose 1.7 percent after the company said it expected to weather any economic downturn.