The European markets finished mixed on Thursday, heading into a 4-day weekend for the Easter holiday. The markets began the trading session solidly to the downside due to concerns over the situation in Spain and the weaker than expected German industrial production number. The European markets pared their losses following the release of the U.S. initial jobless claims report. The U.S. and European stock markets will be closed when the U.S. employment situation report is released on Friday.
Concerns over Spain weighed on the markets Thursday. Wednesday's disappointing bond auction and fears over the eurozone's sovereign debt led to an increase in government bond yields in both Spain and Italy. This again put pressure on bank stocks in Europe, which continued their recent losses.
The nine-member Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England decided to leave the quantitative easing unchanged at GBP 325 billion. Also, the committee retained the benchmark interest rate at its record low level of 0.50 percent.
The Euro Stoxx 50 index of eurozone bluechip stocks declined by 0.20 percent, while the Stoxx Europe 50 index, which includes some major U.K. companies, finished up by 0.01 percent.
The CAC 40 of France climbed by 0.19 percent and the FTSE 100 of the U.K. closed higher by 0.35 percent. The DAX of Germany fell by 0.13 percent and the SMI of Switzerland lost 0.05 percent.
In Frankfurt, Merck fell by 1.54 percent. Exane BNP downgraded its rating on the stock to "Neutral" from "Outperform."
Lufthansa climbed by 1.29 percent after Morgan Stanley reportedly started coverage of the airline with an "Overweight" rating.
Air Berlin finished lower by 1.96 percent. The company reported a decline in capacity and passenger numbers for March as well as first quarter.
Kabel Deutschland, which has filed a lawsuit against Deutsche Telekom on cable ducts usage pricing, climbed by 0.92 percent. Deutsche Telekom dropped by 0.64 percent.
Pfeiffer Vacuum was upgraded to "Buy" from "Add" at Commerzbank. The stock increased by 1.93 percent.
JPMorgan initiated Hugo Boss with an "Overweight" rating. The stock closed higher by 3.35 percent.
In Paris, Veolia Environnement declined by 0.62 percent after Deutsche Bank cut the stock to "Sell" from "Hold."
Sanofi finished lower by 0.93 percent. The drugmaker, along with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, said that the Biologics License Application for the investigational agent Zaltrap (aflibercept) concentrate for solution has been granted priority review by the Food and Drug Administration.
In London, Ashmore Group increased by 5.15 percent after UBS upgraded the stock to "Buy" from "Neutral."
Burberry finished higher by 0.72 percent. JPMorgan initiated the stock with a "Neutral" rating.
JJB Sports reported a narrower pre-tax loss for the year and announced committed 30 million pounds investment and financing package to tide over the tough times. The stock climbed by 1.54 percent.
Food wholesaler Booker Group reported growth in sales and like-for-like sales in the fourth quarter. Profits for the 53 weeks to March 30 remain in line with expectations, the company added. The stock dropped by 4.02 percent.
National Express climbed by 3.54 percent, after Morgan Stanley upgraded the stock to "Overweight" from "Equal weight."
Germany's industrial production declined more than expected in February, data from the Federal Ministry of Economy and Technology showed Thursday. Industrial output dropped 1.3 percent in February from a month ago, offsetting January's 1.2 percent growth. Economists had expected a 0.5 percent decrease.
German construction activity staged a strong recovery in March after unusually cold weather disrupted work in February, a survey by Markit Economics revealed Thursday. The seasonally adjusted purchasing managers' index for the construction sector rose significantly to 55.7 in March from 35.3 in February.
The UK's industrial production increased 0.4 percent month-on-month in February, in line with economists' expectations, data from the Office for National Statistics showed Thursday. Manufacturing production fell 1 percent from a month earlier, while expectations were for a 0.1 percent increase.
New U.S. claims for unemployment benefits fell to the lowest levels in almost four years, according to figures released Thursday by the Labor Department. For the week ended March 31st, the level of new claims for unemployment benefits came in at a seasonally adjusted level of 357,000, a decline of 6,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 363,000. While the previous week's figure was upwardly revised from the 359,000 initially reported, the latest week's figure still came in below the 360,000 predicted by most economists.
by RTT Staff Writer
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