Weak data send European stocks lower
LONDON (MarketWatch) -- Weak macroeconomic data knocked the air out of European stock markets on Thursday, with miners, car makers and banks leading declines, while investors also awaited a speech by U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.
The Stoxx Europe 600 index (SXXP) lost 0.8% to close at 264.97, its lowest closing level since Aug. 3.
"There are concerns that we're moving into a season of storms, and not just in relation to the weather, and markets are always more volatile in that period," said Justin Urquhart Stewart, co-founder of Seven Investment Management.
"We can see that we have the German constitutional court decision, Dutch elections, the Jackson Hole meeting and the ECB meeting ahead of us, so there's a series of potential mines that could go off," he added. He stressed, however, that "we are seeing some fundamental changes since months ago," when people feared Greece would exit the euro zone.
The world's biggest advertising firm,
In contrast, shares of French food retailer
Bernanke in focus
Investors are awaiting Bernanke's Friday speech at the Jackson Hole, Wyo., gathering of central bankers, where any comments about the economy and prospects of further stimulus will be scrutinized.
"Bernanke is not going to come out with any policy announcements yet. He has the ability to do much more quantitative easing than anyone else, because [the dollar is a] reserve currency, but he won't do it until he necessarily has to," Urquhart Stewart said. "We will see some political changes being made before he commits more money," he said.
Weak Japanese retail sales further added to market worries, underpinning concerns about slower global growth. See: Japan's retail sales swing negative in July
Meanwhile in Europe, the number of unemployed Germans grew by a seasonally adjusted 9,000 in August, above analysts' expectations of an 8,000 rise. See: German unemployment rises by 9,000 in August
The European Commission said its euro-zone economic-sentiment indicator fell to 86.1 in August from 87.9 in July, as all the sector indexes declined.
In Italy, the Treasury succeeded in mostly lowering borrowing costs at 5- and 10-year bond auctions.
Italy's FTSE MIB index (FTSEMIB) , however, fell 1.1% to 14,780.55. See: Italian auction highlights hunger for ECB action.
In the U.S., data showed jobless claims were unchanged at 374,000 last week, above analysts expectations for a decline to 370,000. See: U.S. jobless claims unchanged at 374,000
U.S. stocks were lower on Wall Street. Read more about U.S. stocks
Banks, which tend to be among the biggest decliners in a negative trading environment, saw broad-based losses on most European bourses.
French stocks were mostly lower, with
The CAC 40 index (PX1) fell 1% to 3,379.11 in Paris.
"We're probably heading into a rough period for German autos, [as] margins will deteriorate faster than expected due to pricing cuts and production declines" in China, Bernstein Research wrote in a note.