By Steve Goldstein, MarketWatch
European stocks edged lower on Thursday, moving backward after optimism over medical advances to treat COVID-19 as well as momentum toward opening up economies.
Up 11% over the last month, the Stoxx Europe 600 /zigman2/quotes/210599654/delayed XX:SXXP +1.26% slipped 0.5%.
It was the first chance for traders in Europe to react to the U.S. Federal Reserve decision, in which the central bank pledged not to lift interest rates until it was confident the economy had weathered the coronavirus shutdowns.
The European Central Bank kept interest rates unchanged but did make it easier for banks to lend, essentially paying them to do at a 1% rate from June 2020 to June 2021 when lenders refinance.
The ECB met against the backdrop of a decimated eurozone economy, which Eurostat estimated fell 3.8% in the first quarter. France’s gross domestic product slumped 5.8%, and Spain’s fell 5.2%, according to data released Thursday.
News about Gilead Sciences’s intravenous drug remdesivir and results from Microsoft and Facebook underpinned sentiment. Separately, the White House has set up a project that will combine military, government agencies and drug companies to get a vaccine by the end of the year, according to Bloomberg News.
Of companies in the spotlight, Royal Dutch Shell fell 8%% after announcing it was cutting its first-quarter dividend by two-thirds, in what was reported to be the first time the Anglo-Dutch oil giant had reduced its dividend in 80 years.
Banks Société Générale /zigman2/quotes/206663756/delayed FR:GLE +4.25% and BBVA /zigman2/quotes/209653399/delayed ES:BBVA +2.60% traded lower after reporting first-quarter losses, as they each took loan loss provisions for the coronavirus crisis.
Airbus /zigman2/quotes/208224336/delayed FR:AIR +0.24% rose 3% as Chief Executive Guillaume Faury told RTL radio the plane maker is in talks over state aid.