Investing.com - European stocks pushed sharply lower on Thursday, despite the release of positive German employment data, as concerns over ongoing political turmoil in Ukraine continued to weigh on market sentiment.
During European afternoon trade, the EURO STOXX 50 tumbled 1.24%, France’s CAC 40 declined 0.64%, while Germany’s DAX 30 plummeted 1.49%.
Official data earlier showed that the number of unemployed people in Germany declined by 14,000 this month, better than expectations for a drop of 10,000. Jobless claims in January fell by 28,000.
The report showed that Germany’s unemployment held steady at 6.8% in February, in line with expectations.
But investors remained cautious amid fresh tensions between Russia and Ukraine after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted last week.
On Wednesday Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered 150,000 Russian troops to begin military exercises in central and western Russia, near the border with Ukraine.
Geopolitical tensions sparked renewed concerns over the outlook for emerging markets, pressuring the Russian rouble to five year lows against the dollar, while Ukraine’s hryvnia fell to record lows after the central bank abandoned its policy of supporting the currency.
Financial stocks turned broadly lower, as BNP Paribas and Societe Generale tumbled 1.05% and 1.64%, while Germany''s Deutsche Bank declined 0.61%.
Among peripheral lenders, Intesa Sanpaolo and Unicredit plummeted 1.04% and 2.27% respectively, while Spanish banks Banco Santander and BBVA lost 0.93% and 1.78% respectively.
Elsewhere, Allianz, Europe’s biggest insurer, plunged 3.82% after saying it will increase its dividend as fourth-quarter profit rose 1%, missing analysts’ estimates.
Spanish phone company Telefonica SA was also on the downside, dropping 2.50%, even after it reported fourth-quarter earnings that topped analysts’ estimates.
In London, FTSE 100 retreated 0.61%, led by losses in the Royal Bank of Scotland, whose shares dove 8.73%, after it posted its biggest full-year loss since receiving a government bailout in 2008, widening to about £9 billion in 2013 from £6.1 billion in the year-earlier period.
The report came as Chief Executive Officer Ross McEwan outlined plans to shrink its investment banking and overseas operations.
Other U.K. lenders added to losses, as HSBC Holdings slipped 0.29% and Lloyds Banking retreated 1.27%, while Barclays declined 1.30%.
WPP also remained on the downside, sinking 5.11%, after the advertising company increased its share buyback program on Thursday.
Meanwhile, mining stocks pushed lower. Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton dropped 0.57% and 0.70% respectively, while Glencore Xstrata tumbled 0.94%.
In the U.S., equity markets pointed to a lower open. The Dow Jones Industrial Average futures pointed to a 0.36% drop, S&P 500 futures signaled a 0.34% decline, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a 0.20% loss.
Later in the day, the U.S. was to release data on durable goods orders and the weekly report on initial jobless claims.