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European Markets Close Mixed as ECB Slows Pandemic Bond Buying; EasyJet Down 10%

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  • The European Central Bank kept its monetary policy unchanged on Thursday but opted to slow down the pace of net asset purchases under its pandemic emergency purchase program.
  • Initial jobless claims in the U.S. last week dropped to 310,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday, easily the lowest of the Covid era and a significant step toward the pre-pandemic normal.

LONDON — European stocks closed mixed on Thursday as investors in the region reacted to announcements from the European Central Bank.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 ended the session barely below the flatline, having fallen as much as 0.8% earlier in the day. Industrials added 0.6% while basic resources slumped 0.8%.

The European Central Bank kept its monetary policy unchanged on Thursday but opted to slow down the pace of net asset purchases under its pandemic emergency purchase program.

"Based on a joint assessment of financing conditions and the inflation outlook, the Governing Council judges that favourable financing conditions can be maintained with a moderately lower pace of net asset purchases under the (PEPP) than in the previous two quarters," the ECB said in a statement.

On Wall Street, U.S. stocks were mixed as investors remained cautious over the economy.

Dysfunction in the U.S. labor market amid the Covid-19 pandemic was reinforced Wednesday when the Labor Department's Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey showed job openings outnumbered the unemployed by more than 2 million in July.

Initial jobless claims in the U.S. last week dropped to 310,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday, easily the lowest of the Covid era and a significant step toward the pre-pandemic normal.

Economists polled by Dow Jones had expected 335,000 Americans filed for unemployment last week, compared to the previous week's 340,000.

In terms of individual share price movement in Europe, easyJet plunged 10.2% after announcing a discounted rights issue, aiming to raise £1.2 billion ($1.65 billion) to fund its pandemic recovery. The British airline also revealed on Thursday that it had recently rejected a takeover offer.

Genus shares fell 7.5% after missing full-year profit expectations, while Peel Hunt downgraded the British biotech company's stock to "hold" from "buy."

At the top of the Stoxx 600, Polish parcel locker company InPost surged 5% after reporting a 37% increase in second-quarter earnings Wednesday.

Swedish manufacturer Assa Abloy gained 4.7% after agreeing to buy the hardware and home improvement division of U.S. company Spectrum Brands.

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- CNBC's Ryan Browne contributed to this report.

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