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European markets close slightly lower, dragged down by travel and leisure stocks

European markets close slightly lower, dragged down by travel and leisure stocks

European markets closed lower Thursday, as investors continued to weigh the chance of higher interest rates.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed 0.24 percent lower with most sectors in negative territory and bourses mixed.

In the U.K., the FTSE 100 failed to open at the usual time due to a technical issue. But trading resumed at 9 a.m. London time.

Travel and leisure stocks were the worst performers on Thursday, down 1.7 percent. Catering company Elior Group was the worst sectoral performer, down more than 4 percent.

Central bankers suggested Wednesday that the first discussion on how to end quantitative easing could start next week, and that the stimulus package could finish by year-end. Such comments led to an increase in U.S. bond yields on hopes of higher interest rates.

Looking at corporate headlines, Caixabank rose more than 4 percent on Thursday, after proposing to take its Portuguese bank BPI from a public-held company to being private. Auto Trader rose more than 8.7 percent after posting a 7 percent increase in full-year revenue.

In other corporate news, Bayer closed its $63 billion takeover of U.S. agricultural giant Monsanto after the deal was given antitrust clearance by the Department of Justice. Shares of Bayer were down 0.46 percent.

Shares of Remy Countreau dropped towards the bottom of the pan-European benchmark, and were down almost 4.8 percent, despite a strong earnings release. Traders were concerned over a flat dividend and valuation.

On Wall Street, the Nasdaq composite fell as Facebook and other large tech companies led the tech-heavy index lower.

Meanwhile, German data disappointed market players. The latest industrial orders dropped 2.5 percent in the month of April, from a 1.1 percent fall in the previous month. This represented the fourth consecutive negative reading.

Growth figures have also showed a slow down in the euro area. The Eurostat said Thursday that the region grew 0.4 percent in the first quarter of the year — the lowest level since the third quarter of 2016.

On Thursday, Brexit negotiations were in focus. The U.K. is to publish its back-up plan for avoiding a hard Irish border, should it fail to gain a trade deal with the European Union, according to the BBC’s political editor. According to the Financial Times, the plan caused a “serious row” between Prime Minister Theresa May and Brexit minister David Davis.

Russian President Vladimir Putin took questions from citizens during an annual phone-in on Thursday. Putin said that the threat of mutually-assured destruction should deter global powers from attacking each other and prompting a third world war.

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