European stocks slightly lower ahead of ECB meeting, carmakers drag

European  stocks pulled back slightly on Thursday after a strong rally this week, with investors focussed on a European Central Bank meeting where policymakers are expected to provide more aid for the battered euro zone economy.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index slipped 0.4%, but held near its early March highs, while eurozone stocks .STOXXE were also down 0.4%.

Automakers .SXAP and banks .SX7P led the declines, falling 2.3% and 1.7%, respectively.

Equity markets have bounced strongly this week, with Wall Street’s tech-heavy Nasdaq .IXIC nearing record levels as signs of recovery from a coronavirus-forced recession, optimism over a COVID-19 vaccine and hopes of more stimulus boosted risk appetite.