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Europe stocks close lower

European stock markets closed slightly lower on Thursday, with the Stoxx 600 index falling 0.24%.

Major bourses closed in the red, with Germany’s DAX down 0.76%, as France’s CAC 40 and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 retreated by 0.63% and 0.08%, respectively.

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Stoxx 600 index.

ECB must cut in a ‘measured way,’ Latvian central bank head says

A sculpture of the Euro currency stands in the city centre of Frankfurt am Main, western Germany, on January 25, 2024.

Kirill Kudryavtsev | Afp | Getty Images

The European Central Bank is highly likely to cut interest rates in June but should proceed in a “measured” way from there, the head of Latvia’s central bank said Thursday.

“I think we would benefit from a measured path going down… It’s much easier to take decisions when we have the outlook meetings and new projections,” ECB policymaker Martins Kazaks told Reuters.

“Given that inflation will be moving sideways for most of the year, you should not expect some kind of action at every meeting,” Kazaks said.

Markets are nearly certain of a June cut following weeks of heavy signalling from ECB members, but are less clear on the path from there.

The euro zone economy exited a shallow recession in the first quarter of the year to record 0.3% growth, while headline inflation in April came in at 2.4%.

The ECB’s first few interest rate cuts will keep monetary policy in restrictive territory, but the “economy is not extremely weak” so the path downwards should not be rushed, Kazaks also told Reuters.

— Jenni Reid

Novo Nordisk shares dip after fire at manufacturing hub construction site

A view of the logo of Novo Nordisk at the company’s office in Bagsvaerd, on the outskirts of Copenhagen, Denmark, March 8, 2024. 

Tom Little | Reuters

Shares of Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk dipped on Thursday after a fire broke out at a building under construction at its manufacturing hub in Kalundborg, Denmark.

Shares were down 0.45% at 3:40 p.m. London time.

Novo Nordisk confirmed the incident had occurred in a Google-translated post on social media platform X. “No one was injured in the fire,” the firm said, adding that it had been extinguished.

The pharmaceutical giant is “optimistic” the fire will not delay its expansion plans, Reuters cited a company spokesperson as saying on Thursday.

— Vicky McKeever

U.S. stocks are flat as Dow approaches 40,000

BT shares soar 10.5%, on course for record daily gain

BT Group reiterated its full-year outlook on Thursday.

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Shares of British telecom company BT soared 10.5%, on course for its biggest daily gain since November 2021, after announcing a cost-cutting program.

In its full-year results released Thursday, revenues remained steady at £20.8 billion ($26.3 billion) in the year to March, up slightly from £20.7 billion the year prior. However, profit after tax fell 55% to £855 million.

CEO Allison Kirkby said the company is now laser-focused on doubling free cash flow over the next five years and will potentially dispose of its global business to focus on the U.K.

“As we move into the next phase of BT Group’s transformation, we are sharpening our focus to be better for our customers and the country, by accelerating the modernisation of our operations, and by exploring options to optimise our global business. This will create a simpler BT Group, fully focused on connecting the UK, and well positioned to generate significant growth for all our stakeholders,” she said.

— Karen Gilchrist

Siemens posts industrial profit drop as automation division slows

'No doubt' that China will come back, but may take several quarters, Siemens CEO says

German technology giant Siemens on Thursday reported a drop in profit at its industrial business in the fiscal second quarter and said its automation division had slowed.

The company’s industrial profit came in at 2.51 billion euro ($2.73 billion) in the three months ending in March, down 2% from the same quarter last year. The figure was also below the company-compiled analyst forecast of 2.68 billion euro which was reported by Reuters.

Shares in Siemens were last 2.6% lower at 8:48 a.m. London time on Thursday.

Read the full story here.

— Sophie Kiderlin

EasyJet posts larger than expected first-half loss

EasyJet sees 'positive momentum' going into the summer travel season, CEO says

British low-cost airline EasyJet on Thursday posted a slightly larger than expected pre-tax loss of £350 million ($443 million) for the first half of the year even as it said inflationary pressures on the sector were beginning to ease.

The shortfall was above the £340 million expected by analysts, according to an LSEG poll cited by Reuters, but less than the £411 million pre-tax headline loss reported the year earlier, as the airline continued to emerge from a Covid-19-era travel slump.

CEO Johan Lundgren told CNBC that the airline was seeing “positive momentum” coming into the summer travel season, with consumers prioritizing travel, particularly to classic European destinations such as Spain, Portugal and Turkey.

The CEO, who announced he will be stepping down in 2025, added that EasyJet expects to receive all of its new plane deliveries from Airbus despite wider concerns about supply constraints.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean there’s going to be less capacity out there versus last year. It certainly will be less than some airlines were expecting, but we are not affected by that,” he said.

— Karen Gilchrist

CNBC Pro: Citi names one under-the-radar stock to buy on an AI opportunity, giving it 22% upside

Citi recently named one under-the-radar company to buy on a “data and AI opportunity.”

Citi noted that the company said its total addressable market has increased three times, thanks to its artificial intelligence opportunity.

CNBC Pro subscribers can read more here.

— Weizhen Tan

Inflation still ‘irritatingly high,’ says Bankrate’s Hamrick

With the consumer price index showing inflation slightly eased in April, the “lack of a nasty surprise” was welcome, unlike March’s disappointingly high readings, said Mark Hamrick, senior economist at Bankrate.

That said, interest rates will still remain higher for longer, he noted.

“With the 3.4% year-over-year headline increase and 3.6% in the core (excluding food and energy), these remain irritatingly high,” Hamrick said. “The status of the battle against inflation requires that interest rates remain elevated in the near-term.”

— Michelle Fox

CNBC Pro: India’s mid-cap stocks are in a ‘bubble’, says investor — and names the only stock he owns

European markets: Here are the opening calls

European markets are expected to open higher Thursday.

The U.K.’s FTSE 100 index is expected to open 22 points higher at 8,442, Germany’s DAX up 26 points at 18,896, France’s CAC 7 points higher at 8,244 and Italy’s FTSE MIB up 64 points at 35,091, according to data from IG.

Earnings are due from Swiss Re, Zurich Insurance, Siemens, Deutsche Telekom, BT and EasyJet, among others. There are no major data releases.

— Holly Ellyatt

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