European stocks sink as markets await US unemployment figures

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A stock trader looks at his screens during a trading session at Frankfurt’s stock exchange as markets react on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, March 16, 2020. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Stocks in Europe fell across the board on Thursday as investors expected US jobless data to show that an all-time record number of people filed for unemployment benefits amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index (^STOXX) declined by around 2%. London’s FTSE 100 (^FTSE) fell by almost 3%.

Germany’s DAX (^GDAXI) was down by around 2.1%, while France’s CAC 40 (^FCHI) was 2.3% in the red. Stocks in Italy and Spain also declined.

Analysts expect a jobless figure in the millions, with some estimating that as many as four million Americans signed on for unemployment benefits last week, up from 281,000 in the previous week.

Consensus estimates suggest that 1.6 million people filed a claim with state unemployment agencies, reflecting the spiralling impact of the pandemic.

The declines came even after the US senate unanimously passed a $2tn fiscal stimulus package designed to curb the economic effects of the virus.

“The coronavirus crisis has thrown economic orthodoxy up in the air in the past few weeks, as investors fret about the effect on consumer confidence and unemployment, the economic disruption and lockdowns are likely to have on the UK, as well as the global economy,” said Michael Hewson, the chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK.