European stock markets weakened Thursday, taking their lead from a rough session on Wall Street amid concerns of a prolonged economic downturn on the back of the coronavirus outbreak.
At 4:05 AM ET (08:05 GMT), the DAX in Germany traded 1.5% lower, France's CAC 40 fell 1.9%, while the U.K.'s FTSE index was down 1.8%.
The major indices on Wall Street fell back sharply overnight, with the Dow dropping over 500 points, after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned Wednesday of the threat of a prolonged recession resulting from the viral outbreak, stating that the U.S. economic outlook was "both highly uncertain and subject to significant downside risks."
Given the global nature of the coronavirus pandemic and the size and importance of the U.S. economy, these comments can be applied to most of the world’s economies.
ECB President Christine Lagarde has already told European Union ministers of the possibility that the eurozone contracts by up to 15% as a consequence of the coronavirus outbreak.
French unemployment fell in the first quarter to 7.8%, an 11-year low, from 8.1% in the fourth quarter. But this figure was distorted as people without work were unable to seek jobs once France entered its coronavirus lockdown.
In corporate news, Sanofi (PA:SASY) dropped 1.4% as the French pharmaceutical giant found itself in a political minefield after stating that the U.S. government would have the right to the most advance orders if it were to develop a coronavirus vaccine. The French government described that position as “unacceptable”.
Airbus (PA:AIR) slipped 1.1% following a report that the aerospace group is exploring restructuring plans involving the possibility of further "deep" job cuts, industry sources said.
In contrast, pan-European exchange operator Euronext (PA:ENX) gained 5% after reporting a hefty jump in quarterly revenue, partly driven by the heavy trading in March.
And Pexip, a Norwegian video-conferencing firm touted as a potential rival to Zoom Video, rose 54% on its market debut in Oslo after its initial public offering was oversubscribed 12 times.
Oil futures gained Thursday, helped by U.S. crude stocks falling by 745,000 barrels to 531.5 million barrels in the week to May 8, marking the first decline since January, the Energy Information Administration said late Wednesday.
At 4:10 AM ET, U.S. crude June futures traded 2.8% higher at $26.00 a barrel. The international benchmark Brent contract rose 2.6% to $29.94.
Elsewhere, gold futures rose 0.4% to $1,722.80/oz, while EUR/USD traded at 1.0803, down 0.1%.