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European Markets End Sharply Lower On Growth Worries

European markets ended sharply lower on Friday, as investors pressed heavy sales across the board due to mounting worries about global economic growth.

Data released today showed contraction in eurozone service sector activity. France's service sector growth slowed to the lowest level in 2 months and Germany's private sector growth dropped to the slowest pace in six years.

The recent comments about interest rate outlook and the U.S. economy by the Federal Reserve, Brexit uncertainty and conflicting reports about U.S.-China trade negotiations continued to weigh on sentiment. Weak U.S. factory data hurt as well.

The pan European Stoxx 600 declined 1.22%. Among the major markets in Europe, Germany's DAX tumbled 1.61%, while the U.K.'s FTSE 100 and France's CAC 40 ended lower by 2.01% and 2.03%, respectively. Switzerland's SMI ended 1.42% down.

Among other markets in Europe, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Spain and Turkey all ended notably lower.

Czech Republic, Ukraine, Iceland and Poland ended flat.

In the U.K. market, Standard Chartered, Antofagasta, Ashtead Group, Johnson Matthey, Mondi, Prudential and Barclays lost 3 to 5%.

In Germany, Fresenius, Thyssenkrupp, Bayer, Siemens, Volkswagen, Continental, BASF, Linde, BMW, Deutsche Bank, Lufthansa, Daimler and Wirecard ended lower by 2 to 4.3%.

French stock ArcelorMittal declined more than 5%. Societe Generale, Saint Gobain, Renault, Credit Agricole, Valeo, Airbus Group, BNP Paribas and Capgemini lost 2 to 4%.

On the Brexit front, European Union leaders have offered the U.K. more time to ease itself out of the bloc.

Flash data from IHS Markit's purchasing managers' survey showed eurozone private sector expanded at the slowest pace in two months in March amid a deepening downturn in manufacturing, defying expectations for a modest improvement.

The flash Eurozone Composite Purchasing Managers' Index rose to a two-month low of 51.3 from 51.9 in February. Economists had forecast a score of 52.

The manufacturing PMI dropped to a 71-month low of 47.7 from 49.4 in February. Economists were looking for a score of 49.5.

The services PMI hit a two-month low of 52.7 from 52.8 in February. The reading was in line with economists' expectations.

New order growth stagnated for a second successive month and the reduction in backlogs was the largest since November 2014, suggesting excess capacity developing in the economy. Consequently, employment growth slowed to the joint-weakest since September 2016.

Exports fell for a sixth month running, and at the steepest rate since comparable data for total exports were first available in September 2014.

"The survey indicates that GDP likely rose by a modest 0.2% in the opening quarter, with a decline in manufacturing output in the region of 0.5% being offset by an expansion of service sector output of approximately 0.3%," IHS Markit Chief Business Economist Chris Williamson said.

France private sector activity dropped to its lowest level in two months in March with both manufacturing and services falling, amid an intensified decline in new order and exports, survey data from IHS Markit showed.

The flash Composite Purchasing Managers' Index, which combines manufacturing and services, fell to a two-month low of 48.7 in March from 50.4 in February. Economists had forecast an improvement to 50.7.

The flash services PMI tumbled to a two-month low of 48.7 in March and the flash manufacturing PMI dropped to a three-month low of 49.8.

The manufacturing output index fell to 48.8 in March from 51.0 in February, marking the lowest level in three months.

Export demand shrunk the most in nearly three years and employment growth was the weakest since December 2016.

In Germany, private sector grew at its slowest pace in nearly six years, led by a sharp decline in manufacturing, flash data from IHS Markit revealed on Friday.

The composite output index fell to a 69-month low of 51.5 in March from 52.8 in February. Economists had forecast a rise of 52.7.

The flash services Purchasing Managers' Index dropped to 54.9 in March from 55.3 in February.

The flash manufacturing PMI dropped more-than-expected to 44.7 in March from 47.6 In February. The reading was the lowest in six-and-a-half years. Economists had forecast the reading to rise 48.0.

Manufacturing output PMI also fell to a 79-month low of 45.0 in March to 47.9 in February.

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