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European Markets End Lower On Growth Worries, Interest Rate Uncertainty

European markets ended lower on Thursday, weighed down by recession fears, uncertainty about interest rate cuts in the U.S. and disappointing eurozone economic data.

Italian politics also remained in focus following the collapse of the populist coalition.

The mood was largely cautious with markets looking ahead to the Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell's speech on Friday.

The pan European Stoxx 600 declined 0.4%, dragged down by losses posted by stocks from several sectors. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 ended down 1.05%, while France's CAC 40 and Germany's DAX shed 0.87% and 0.47%, respectively. Switzerland's SMI ended down 0.43%.

Among other markets in Europe, Austria, Belgium, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden and Ukraine closed weak.

Czech Republic, Greece, Iceland and Spain moved up, while Denmark, Norway, Poland, Portugal and Russia ended flat.

In the UK market, Burberry Group, Rolls-Royce Holdings, Ocado, BAE Systems, CRH and Imperial Brands lost 2.5 to 4%. Prudential, Rentokil, Carnival, Coca Cola HBC and Micro Focus also declined sharply.

NMC Health shares soared nearly 19% after two groups, including one backed by China's Fosun, reportedly made competing offers to buy a 40% stake in the company.

ITV, Marks & Spencer, Persimmon, J Sainsbury, Tui, Kingfisher, Standard Life and EasyJet gained 2 to 4%.

In France, Dassault Systems ended lower by more than 3.5%. Airbus Group, Capgemini, Louis Vuitton, Kering, Atos, Pernod Ricard, Hermes International, Cinci and Safran lost 1.3 to 2.8%.

On the other hand, ArcelorMittal and Societe Generale ended higher by 2.8% and 2.1%, respectively. Publicis Groupe, Renault and Technip gained 1 to 1.3%.

In the German market, SAP, Vonovia, Adidas, Linde, E.ON and Merck lost 1 to 2.2%.

Shares of Thyssenkrupp AG rallied 5.7%. Deutsche Bank gained nearly 2%, while Continental, Covestro and Bayer gained 0.7 to 2%.

Shares of Ambu A/S plunged sharply after the Danish medical equipment maker cut its full-year revenue and EBIT margin guidance.

In economic news, On the data front, Germany's private sector continued to underperform in August as growth in services activity was countered by a marked contraction in manufacturing, flash survey data from IHS Markit showed. On the other hand, France's private sector rose at the fastest pace in two months in the month.

The euro area composite output index rose unexpectedly to 51.8 in August from a 3-month low of 51.5 in July. Economists had forecast a score of 51.2.

According to the minutes of the July 24-25 European Central Bank's Governing Council meeting, policymakers supported the proposal to design a stimulus package for the euro area as growth is likely to be weaker than earlier forecast.

"The view was expressed that the various options should be seen as a package, i.e. a combination of instruments with significant complementarities and synergies, since experience had shown that a policy package - such as the combination of rate cuts and asset purchases - was more effective than a sequence of selective actions," the minutes, which the ECB calls "account", said.

In the July policy session, the ECB left its interest rates unchanged and altered its forward guidance to signal that they will be reduced in future.

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