European markets traded lower on Thursday, as investors monitored friction between the U.S. and China over the Hong Kong protests.
The pan-European Stoxx 600 was down by 0.2% during afternoon trade, with autos shedding 1% to lead losses while retail stocks bucked the trend to climb 0.5%.
U.S. President Donald Trump signed into law two bills backing protesters in Hong Kong on Wednesday, setting off a clash with China which had objected to such legislation. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs subsequently slammed the move, accusing the U.S. of having “sinister intentions.”
The episode could dash hopes of Washington and Beijing reaching a so-called “phase one” trade deal, which markets had moved higher on earlier in the week.
In Asia, equities wobbled as investors fretted over the potential deterioration in U.S.-China relations. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares excluding Japan sank about 0.1%.
Back in Europe, traders digested polling data out of the U.K. ahead of a crucial Dec. 12 election. A YouGov poll showed Prime Minister Boris Johnson on course to win a solid majority of 68 seats in Parliament.
In terms of data, euro zone economic sentiment rebounded more than expected in November on the back of improved mood music in the service sector.
Data from the European Commission on Thursday morning showed economic sentiment across the currency bloc’s 19 countries rose to 101.3 points in November from 100.8 in October, beating the Reuters analyst consensus of 101.0.
U.S. markets are closed on Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday.
In terms of individual stocks, Virgin Money posted a surprising 18.7% leap after offering a reassuring 2020 outlook, which suggested that the worst of a lingering insurance scandal had come to pass, according to Reuters. The surge came despite the company missing 2019 full-year profit expectations and cancelling its dividend.