European stocks close lower amid escalating trade tensions

European equities closed lower Friday, as an escalating trade standoff between the world’s biggest economies rattled investors.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed down by 0.35 percent provisionally, with most major bourses and sectors finishing in negative territory.

Europe’s auto stocks led the losses on Friday, down almost 1.7 percent amid heightened trade tensions. Schaeffler and Hella were among the worst sectoral performers, down 1.33 and 1.57 percent respectively.

Basic resources stocks — with their heavy exposure to China — were among the worst performers, down 1.6 percent. Rio Tinto was among the hardest hit after Exane BNP Paribas cut its stock recommendation to a “neutral” from “outperform.” Shares of the mining giant were off more than 2.3 percent on the news.

Looking at individual stocks, Telecom Italia surged to the top of the European benchmark. On Thursday, Reuters reported, citing three unnamed sources, that Italian state lender CDP intends to buy a stake of up to 5 percent in the firm. Shares of Telecom Italia shot up by almost 7 percent.

Dufry was among the top performing European stocks, after the firm proposed a dividend and announced it would launch a share buyback plan. Kepler Chevreux then upgraded its target price for the Swiss travel retailer shortly after the opening bell, supporting a move higher. Shares of Dufry were up 3 percent.

On Wall Street, stocks traded lower amid ongoing protectionism worries. U.S. nonfarm payrolls rose 103,000 in March, well below analyst expectations.

Late on Thursday, President Donald Trump instructed the U.S. Trade Representative to consider $100 billion of additional tariffs on Chinese goods. The further charges were being proposed “in light of China’s unfair retaliation” against prior U.S. trade actions, Trump said in a statement.

Source: CNBC