European Equity Benchmarks Close Sharply Lower; Euro Area Unemployment Lowest in 10 Years

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The broad-based major European indices closed sharply lower in Thursday's trading session, as the French bourse fell more than 1%, and the Frankfurt exchange shed nearly 2%.

In economic news, the seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate in the euro area (EA19) was 8.6% in January, flat from the previous month, and down from 9.6% in January of 2017, according to Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. It is the lowest rate recorded in the euro area since December 2008. The EU28 unemployment rate was 7.3% in January, unchanged from December, and down from 8.1% in January of the previous year. It is also the lowest rate recorded in the EU28 since October 2008.

The lowest unemployment rates in January were recorded in the Czech Republic (2.4%), Malta (3.5%) and Germany (3.6%), while the highest unemployment rates were reported in Greece (20.9% in November 2017) and Spain (16.3%). Compared with a year ago, the unemployment rate fell in all member countries.

Meanwhile, the eurozone manufacturing sector continued to expand at a robust pace in February, according to IHS Markit. The final IHS Markit Eurozone Manufacturing PMI slowed to a four-month low of 58.6 in February, down from 59.6 in January, but well above its long-run average of 51.8. The upturn remained broad-based by sector, with growth seen across the consumer, intermediate and investment goods industries.

"Although the Eurozone Manufacturing PMI fell for a second successive month in February, the survey data indicate that factories are still enjoying their best growth spell for 18 years," Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit said in a release. "The average PMI for the first quarter so far is the second-highest since the spring of 2000, falling just short of the near-record peak seen in the fourth quarter of last year."

In equities, commercial pest control company Rentokil, and communications giant WPP led the FTSE lower in London, falling 9.2% and 8.2% respectively, while airline operator easyJet, and industrial equipment rental firm Ashtead Group lost 4% and 3.8%. Mining stocks also helped weigh down the market as Rio Tinto, Glencore, Fresnillo, and Anglo American declined 3.7%, 2.7%, 2.5% and 2.2% respectively.

In Frankfurt, health care stocks helped push the DAX sharply lower, as health care company Fresenius, and pharmaceutical firm Merck lost 3.6% and 3.5%, while kidney dialysis company Fresenius Medical Care was off 2.7%. Automotive stocks also burdened the market as automakers Volkswagen and Daimler fell 2.5% and 2.1%, while tire maker Continental dropped 2.4%. Personal-care products maker Beiersdorf led all decliners, shedding 4.5%.

And in Paris, supermarket operator Carrefour led the CAC lower, declining 6%, followed by semiconductor company STMicroelectronics, public relations firm Publicis, and hotel operator Accor, which were off 3.8% 3.4%, and 3% respectively. Media company Vivendi closed 2.5% lower, while aircraft engineering company Safran, and cosmetics company L'Oreal were down 2.1% each.

The FTSE lost 0.78%, the DAX fell 1.97%, and the CAC-40 dropped 1.09%.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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