European Stocks Post Worst Back-to-Back Losses in Two Months

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The Stoxx Europe 600 Index fell 2.2% to its lowest close since April 21. All 19 industry groups fell, led by retailers. Banks flirted with a record low closing level, before paring declines in the final hour of trading.

Gloom reigned in the stock market on Thursday after U.S. jobless claims remained in the millions for an eighth week, while President Donald Trump continued to target China, stoking worries about a renewed trade war. Optimism about easing lockdowns and stimulus measures is fading in May after spurring an equity rebound from a mid-March low. Instead, investors have focused on bleak data and an increase in virus cases in countries loosening restrictions, while Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell this week warned of long-term economic damage without further fiscal support.

“Hard on the heels of Jerome Powell’s downbeat comments on the U.S. economy come initial jobless claims that are worse than expectations, although continuing claims are a bit better than thought,” Neil Birrell, chief investment officer at Premier Miton, said by email. “Equities have been struggling since Powell spoke and there is nothing in these numbers to provide respite. However we seem to be immune to such data points, the worry must be that the cumulative effect will become overbearing.”

European equities paced a slump in U.S. peers. Banks in the Stoxx 600 slid as much as 4.5% toward their lowest level on record, before closing 1.3% lower. Thursday’s broad sell-off also saw all western European markets in the red.

“The market optimism between the end of March and early May has now vanished and led markets to fresh lows for the first time since the beginning of the April rally,” said Pierre Veyret, a technical analyst at ActivTrades. “The short to mid-term bullish trend is now over and traders wonder if prices will enter into a horizontal consolidation phase or start a new corrective move that could lead to much lower lows.”

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