Major European Markets Close Mixed

The major European markets ended on a mixed note on Thursday as investors reacted to the European Central Bank's monetary policy statement, and continued to make cautious moves amid worries about the pace of economic recovery due to the surge in the Delta variant of coronavirus.

The European Central Bank (ECB) today left its key interest rate, the main refinancing rate, unchanged at zero, the deposit rate at -0.50% and the marginal lending rate at 0.25%, in line with economists' expectations.

The ECB said it will slow the pace of its emergency asset purchases, which were launched last year to support the economy amid the Covid-19 crisis, as policymakers worry higher inflation may last long.

Investors also noted the data from the U.S. Labor Department that said jobless claims in the world's largest economy saw a bigger than expected decrease in the week ended September 4th.

The pan European Stoxx 600 edged down 0.06%. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 shed 1.01%, while Germany's DAX and France's CAC 40 ended higher by 0.08% and 0.24%, respectively. Switzerland's SMI slid 0.81%.

Most of the other markets in Europe closed weak. Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal and Spain ended lower.

Ireland, Sweden and Turkey closed higher, while Iceland ended flat.

In the UK market, Coca-Cola declined by about 4.4%. DCC, Melrose Industries, Polymetal International and Prudential shed more than 3%. Rio Tinto, Vodafone Group, Hargreaves Lansdown, British American Tobacco, BT Group and Standard Chartered lost 2 to 2.7%.

AstraZeneca ended lower by 1.3% after the European Medicines Agency listed the neurological disorder Guillain-Barre syndrome, which can cause temporary paralysis, as a "very rare" side effect of the company's COVID-19 vaccine.

Shares of EasyJet plunged more than 10% after the airline announced a fully underwritten rights issue to raise gross proceeds of approximately 1.2 billion pounds.

Rivals British Airways-owner IAG and Wizz Air ended lower by 1.6% and 1.25%, respectively.

M&G, Whitbread, Intermediate Capital Group, B&M European Value Retail and IHG gained 1 to 1.5%.

In the French market, Sanofi declined more than 2%. The French pharmaceutical company reported that its phase 3 PEGASUS trial evaluating rilzabrutinib to treat pemphigus, a rare autoimmune skin condition, did not meet its primary or key secondary endpoints.

Atos, Vinci, ArcelorMittal, Faurecia, Veolia and Carrefour lost 1 to 2.5%.

Safran gained more than 3%. LVMH, Airbus Group, Saint Gobain, Dassault Systemes, LOreal and Pernod Ricard moved up 1 to 1.7%.

In Germany, Bayer, Lufthansa, Allianz, Fresenius, Deutsche Telekom and Henkel lost 1 to 1.7%, while Infineon Technologies, Siemens, Vonovia, Volkswagen, Thyssenkrupp, Beiersdorf, Munich RE and RWE gained 1 to 1.8%.

Merck ended notably higher after the company said it expect Group sales to grow organically by more than 6% annually on average up to 2025.

Swiss drug major Roche drifted lower. The company said it has signed a definitive share purchase agreement to acquire long-term partner TIB Molbiol Group.

The ECB reiterated its forward guidance on interest rates that policymakers expect the key ECB interest rates to remain at their present or lower levels until inflation is seen reaching two percent well ahead of the end of its projection horizon and durably for the rest of the projection horizon.

They should also judge that realized progress in underlying inflation is sufficiently advanced to be consistent with inflation stabilizing at 2% over the medium term, the bank added.

Net asset purchases under the pandemic emergency purchase programme, or PEPP, will continue with a total envelope of EUR 1,850 billion until at least the end of March 2022 and, in any case, until policymakers judge that the coronavirus crisis phase is over, the ECB said.

The Governing Council stands ready to adjust all of its instruments, as appropriate, to ensure that inflation stabilizes at its two per cent target over the medium term, the ECB reaffirmed.

Germany's exports growth eased in July and imports declined for the first time in three months, data from Destatis showed on Thursday.

Exports grew 0.5% on a monthly basis, as expected, following a 1.3% rise in June.

At the same time, imports dropped unexpectedly by 3.8%, reversing June's 0.7% increase. Economists had forecast a monthly growth of 0.2%.

The trade surplus increased to a seasonally adjusted EUR 17.9 billion from EUR 13.5 billion in the previous month.

On a yearly basis, exports climbed at a slower pace of 12.4% after rising 23.6% in June. Likewise, growth in imports eased to 16.6% from 27.1% in the previous month.

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