- Eurozone industrial output declines
- ECB says policy will remain loose
- US retail sales rise
- US weekly jobless claims surge
FTSE 100: -1.03%
CAC 40: -0.41%
FTSE MIB: -0.70%
IBEX 35: -0.98%
Stoxx 600: -0.98%
European stocks finished lower as investors weighed economic data releases today in the Eurozone and the US.
Eurozone industrial output dropped 1.1% on the month, compared to a decline of 0.5% and the consensus forecast for an increase of 0.3%.
It signalled another bump in the road for the bloc's economic recovery as the European Central Bank (ECB) said its policy would remain loose as long as needed.
In its monthly bulletin the ECB said that it would continue to assist the gradual economic recovery in the euro area by keeping borrowing costs low for an "extended" period.
The ECB expects gross domestic product (GDP) in the Eurozone to decline 0.4% this year and pick up to 1.1% growth next year and 1.5% in 2015.
Separately, ECB President Mario Draghi said bank holdings of government bonds will be tested among other debt categories in the monetary authority's planned stress test next year.
However, he warned that the larger debate over risk weights for sovereign debt holdings is not the ECB's responsibility.
"Sovereign debt is going to be stressed like all other categories in banks' balance sheets," Draghi said during a plenary debate on the ECB's Annual Report 2012 at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.
The ECB is reviewing the balance sheets of the largest Eurozone banks before taking over supervision of the financial institutions in November 2014.
US retail sales, jobless claims
In the US session, retail sales and weekly jobless claims figures were in focus today as a gauge of whether the Federal Reserve will begin scaling back its monetary stimulus next week.
Jobless claims surged to their highest level in two months in the week ended December 7th, rising to 368,000 from a revised 300,000 the week before. Analysts had expected a much smaller increase to 320,000.
However, analysts warned about reading too much into the numbers given that the Labor Department said volatile seasonal factors - related to the timing of Thanksgiving - affected the data. Analyst Cooper Howes from Barclays said: "We would suggest smoothing through the volatility and looking at the four-week moving average, which rose 6k to 329k."
The volume of US retail sales expanded at a 0.7% month-on-month pace in November, figures from the Census Bureau revealed on Thursday. This was higher than a revised 0.6% gain in October and ahead of the consensus estimate for 0.5%.
Paul Dales, Senior US Economist at Capital Economics, said that the data suggests that the "holiday shopping season began on a strong note".
According to a December 6th survey by Bloomberg, 34% of economists believe the central bank may consider reducing its $85bn of monthly bond purchases at its December 17th-18th meeting, up 17% from a November 8th poll.
Peugeot, Sports Direct
PSA Peugeot Citroen declined after disclosing a charge of about €€1.1bn in its auto operation due to unfavourable currency movements in Russia and latin America and lowering its estimate for savings from its partnership with General Motors.
Sportswear and equipment retailer Sports Direct slumped after saying that "[current] trading has now reverted to management's original expectations" as it reported its first half earnings.
UCB SA advanced after Barclays upgraded the Belgian drugmaker's shares
to 'overweight' from 'equal weight'.
John Wood Group's shares dropped after saying it expects earnings from its engineering division to fall 15% in 2014.
Ziggo rallied after the Dutch broadband provider said that Liberty Global Plc has renewed talks to buy the company.
Fortum Oyj gained after saying it will sell its Finnish power distribution business for €2.55bn to Suomi Power Networks Oy.
The euro fell 0.25% to $1.3752.
Brent crude declined $0.578 to $109.070 per barrel, according to the ICE.