The European markets declined on Thursday after disappointing manufacturing data from China led to caution among investors. Sentiment was also impacted by unimpressive domestic economic reports. Miners and automakers came under pressure. The Asian markets ended mixed and the U.S. index futures point to a lower open.
China's manufacturing sector shrank for a fifth consecutive month in March, as output suffered a pullback due to weakening domestic demand in the world's second-largest economy, a survey by Markit Economics revealed. The headline flash HSBC/Markit manufacturing purchasing managers' index fell to a four-month low of 48.1 in March from 49.6 in February.
The Euro Stoxx 50 index of eurozone bluechip stocks is declining 1.51 percent, while the Stoxx Europe 50 index, which includes some major U.K. companies, is dropping 1.06 percent.
The German DAX is declining 1.37 percent and the French CAC 40 is losing 1.49 percent. The UK's FTSE 100 is falling 0.86 percent and Switzerland's SMI is retreating 0.72 percent.
In Frankfurt, ThyssenKrupp is declining 2.8 percent. Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW are notably lower.
Basf, Bayer and K+S are losing between 2.7 percent and 1.4 percent.
Commerzbank is falling 2.2 percent and Deutsche Bank is dropping 1.7 percent.
Deutsche Boerse is the lone gainer on the DAX index, adding 0.3 percent. Citigroup re-initiated the stock with a "Neutral" rating.
Continental is down 0.4 percent. Exane BNP raised the stock to "Outperform" from "Neutral."
Lubricants maker Fuchs Petrolub confirmed that its profit increased in 2011, helped by strong growth in Europe. The stock is down 0.5 percent.
Lanxess is climbing 6.4 percent. The specialty chemicals company said it got off to a promising start in 2012 and also hiked dividend after reporting higher earnings and sales in its fiscal 2011.
In Paris, Schneider Electric is declining 4.35 percent. Peugeot and Renault are losing 4.3 percent and 3.7 percent, respectively.
Alstom, Saint-Gobain, Lafarge and ArclorMittal are seeing notable losses.
Societe Generale is falling 3.4 percent. Credit Agricole and BNP Paribas are falling 2.6 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively.
Hermes International is gaining 2.7 percent. The fashion house declared a special dividend after full year profit increased 41 percent.
In London, miners Anglo American and Antofagasta are declining 2.7 percent and 3.2 percent, respectively. BHP Billiton is losing 2.2 percent. Fresnillo is declining about 5 percent.
Randgold Resources is plunging over 14 percent after rebel soldiers staged a mutiny in the West African country of Mali. The miner said its mines in the country are running normally adding that it was in touch with its sources within the country.
Kingfisher is down 0.6 percent. The home improvement retailer reported a higher profit for the year, as sales grew nearly 4 percent driven by strong growth in each of the three main operating divisions.
Barclays is declining 2.4 percent, Royal Bank of Scotland is dropping 2.6 percent and Lloyds Banking Group is losing 2.3 percent.
Next is falling 1.7 percent. The retailer reported a 6.6 percent increase in 2011 profit as weakness in retail sales was more than offset by rapid growth of online business.
Baloise is falling 6.4 percent in Zurich after reporting annual results.
In economic news, Germany's private sector expanded only at a marginal pace in March as output growth eased to a four-month low, flash data from Markit Economics showed.
Meanwhile, Eurozone private sector activity deteriorated further in March, a survey by Markit Economics revealed. The flash composite output index fell to a three-month low of 48.7 in March from 49.3 in February. Economists expected an improvement in the index reading to 49.6.
In the U.K., retail sales declined more than expected in February, the Office for National Statistics said.
Across Asia/Pacific, markets had a mixed outing. Australia's All Ordinaries gained 0.41 percent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.22 percent. Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.40 percent while China's Shanghai Composite Index, however, slipped 0.10 percent.
In the U.S., futures point to a lower open on Wall Street. In the previous session, the major averages ended the session mixed. The Nasdaq inched up less than a tenth of a percent, while the Dow fell 0.4 percent and the S&P 500 slipped 0.2 percent.
In the commodity space, crude for May delivery is sliding $1.19 to $106.08 per barrel and April gold is losing $12.6 to $1637.7 a troy ounce.
by RTT Staff Writer
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