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European Markets Close Sharply Lower As Stocks Tumble On Virus Fears

European markets ended sharply lower on Friday, as investors, chose to stay cautious and booked profits ahead of the weekend after recent strong upmove.

Reports saying that the European Union leaders failed to agree on stimulus measures on Thursday weighed on sentiment. It looks like EU policymakers will take two more weeks to work out details.

Rising concerns about the surge in coronavirus infections in the U.S. and several other parts of the globe, and falling crude oil prices too prompted traders to exit counters.

With the U.S. surpassing China and Italy following coronavirus cases rising past 82,000, virus axiety has deepened now. According to Johns Hopkins University, the coronavirus has infected more than half a million people worldwide.

The U.K. Primer Minister Boris Johnson announced today that he had tested positive for coronavirus. He has pledged to self-isolate at home while continuing to "lead the national fightback against the virus."

The pan European Stoxx 600 ended down 3.27%. Among the major indices, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 declined 5.45%, Germany's DAX ended down 3.68%, France's CAC 40 closed lower by 4.23% and Switzerland's SMI ended 2.26% down.

Among other markets in Europe, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Spain, Sweden and Turkey lost 2 to 5%.

Portugal, Poland and Denmark also ended weak, while Iceland edged higher.

Kingfisher, Next, Royal Dutch Shell, Easyjet, BP, Barclays and Rolls-Royce Holdings lost 9 to 14%.

Accor, Sodexo, Bouygues, Societe Generale, Renault and Publicis Groupe lost 6 to 10%.

Provident Financial, Meggitt, Rightmove, Essilor Luxottica, Cairn Energy, Dalmier, Deutsche Bank, Covestro, Deutsche Post, and Volkswagen were among the other prominent losers in Friday's session.

Leaders of the G20 major economies have pledged to pump over $5 trillion into the global economy in a coordinated effort to minimize losses that could accrue due to business shutdowns.

In major economic news from the euro area, French consumer confidence weakened slightly in March, survey results from the statistical office Insee showed. The corresponding index dropped to 103 from 104 in February.

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