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European Markets Close Slightly Lower as Covid Surge, Fed Comments Weigh on Sentiment

Thierry Monasse
  • Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell hinted at the future removal of monetary stimulus measures that have propped up the world's largest economy through the pandemic, noting that congressional stimulus and the vaccine rollout has enabled a faster recovery than expected.
  • The main focus for European markets on Thursday was be a virtual meeting between EU leaders to discuss the worrying epidemiological situation in Europe and sluggish vaccine rollout.

LONDON — European stocks closed lower on Thursday, as investors considered the ramifications of a surge in coronavirus cases in the region, while comments from U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell deepened losses.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 finished 0.14% lower after trimming losses during afternoon trade. Oil and gas stocks lost 2% to lead losses while health care stocks bucked the trend to add 0.6%. Major bourses finished mixed as the German DAX and French CAC managed to end the session in positive territory.

Powell on Thursday hinted at the future removal of monetary stimulus measures which have propped up the world's largest economy through the pandemic, noting that congressional stimulus and the vaccine rollout has enabled a faster recovery than expected.

Focus for European markets on Thursday was also attuned to a virtual meeting between EU leaders to discuss the worrying epidemiological situation in Europe and sluggish vaccine rollout.

High on the agenda were possible curbs on vaccine exports from the bloc, a move that could impact the neighboring U.K. hardest and could stall its so-far successful immunization program.

The EU and the U.K. sought to ease tensions over vaccine exports in the last 24 hours, saying Wednesday they want to find a "win-win" solution and boost supplies across the continent.

Stateside, markets were flat Thursday after Powell's comments. Pressure on high-growth technology stocks continued, having sent the Nasdaq Composite down 2% during the previous session. Shares in Asia-Pacific closed in mixed territory Thursday as tech stocks in the region took a hit following the sell-off in the sector on Wall Street.

Earnings on Thursday came from Deutsche Wohnen, Cineworld and Smiths Group, while Tui, ABB and Givaudan hold their annual general meetings.

Cineworld shares tumbled 8% after it reported a $3 billion loss for 2020. Cineworld also plans to ask shareholders to approve a raise in its debt ceiling in order to secure its finances.

Deutsche Wohnen announced a fall in net profit, but projected solid progress in 2021. Shares were down 3.6%.

Switzerland's SoftwareONE saw its shares plunge more than 18% after its full-year earnings report and 2021 outlook.

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