- Eurozone composite PMI comes in ahead of forecasts
- Tensions continue to simmer in Ukraine
turns around, rises towards 1.3813
- Automobile stocks are worst performers
FTSE Mibtel 30: -1.18%
Ibex 35: 0.13%
Stoxx 600: -0.59%
European stocks ended Wednesday's session in negative territory despite generally better-than-expected readings on the Eurozone's manufacturing and service sectors, although French manufacturing data undershot expectations.
The so-called composite euro area purchasing managers index (PMI) improved to a reading of 54 in April, from 53.1 the month before and above consensus forecasts of 54.
Analysts at Barclays Research pointed out the improvement seen in hiring intentions in both sectors. However, the composite input prices sub-index declined to a 10-month low to 50.4, well below the long-term average of 56.7, "complicating the European Central Bank's (ECB's) task".
However, the PMI for France's manufacturing sector slipped to a reading of 50.9, from 52.1 in the month before and against a consensus of 51.9.
The above came ahead of a speech by ECB President Mario Draghi on Thursday likely to be closely followed by market participants.
By the European close, the euro/dollar had moved slightly from its intra-day high to reach 1.3816.
Jasper Lawler at CMC Markets said: "Markets in Europe traded with a negative bias today as yesterday's pharma deals run into trouble and data suggested China's manufacturing sector is still in contraction."
Acting as a backdrop, the US has dispatched hundreds of troops to Eastern Europe for manoeuvres. The order came after Kiev accused pro-Russian separatists of torturing and killing two people and shooting at one of its aircraft.
In a defensive move, European companies are increasing their stocks of natural gas (LNG), with flows from Britain to Europe having tripled in the past three weeks. Fresh cargoes of LNG from Qatar have been arriving at the UK's South Hook terminal. European LNG inventories have risen by 20% since the end of March.
Technology stocks lead falls
From a sector standpoint, the worst performance was being logged by companies in the following industrial groups: Automobiles&Parts (-1.44%), Technology (-1.37%) and Utilities (-1.28%).
Swedish mobile telecommunications equipment group Ericsson was lower after reporting first-quarter operating profits that came in below analysts' estimates.
Shares of Scania AB retreated as shareholder Alecta said Volkswagen's offer failed to reflect Scania's long-term fundamental value.
Shares in French cable operator Numericable rang up more than 8% as it prepared to undertake what may be the largest sale of junk bonds in history at €8.4bn, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena has been upgraded to 'buy' from 'sell' at Goldman Sachs.
Euro moves higher
The euro/dollar was up by 0.05% at 1.3813.
Front-month Brent crude futures were edging lower by 0.62% to the $109.27/barrel mark on the ICE.