European stocks remained lower on Thursday, after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said that monetary policy will need to remain accommodative for some time, as trading volumes were expected to become thin ahead of the Easter holiday weekend.
During European afternoon trade, the DJ Euro Stoxx 50 fell 0.28%, France’s CAC 40 eased 0.05%, while Germany’s DAX edged down 0.17%.
On Wednesday, Janet Yellen said the risks of persistently low consumer prices outweighed those of high inflation. She added that the central bank sees room for the U.S. unemployment rate to fall to between 5.2% and 5.6% by the end of 2016. The unemployment rate currently stands at 6.7%.
Elsewhere, investors were eyeing a meeting of the European Union, U.S., Ukraine and Russia, due to take place in Geneva on Thursday, as tensions in Eastern Europe persisted.
Financial stocks remained mixed. In France, BNP Paribas (BNPP.PAR) and Societe Generale (SOGN.PAR) climbed 0.50% and 1.13%, while Germany's Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.XETRA) rose 0.38%.
Among peripheral lenders, Italy's Intesa Sanpaolo (ISP.MILAN) and Unicredit (CRDI.MILAN) declined 0.12% and 0.73% respectively, while Spanish banks Banco Santander (SAN.MADRID) and BBVA (BBVA.MADRID) tumbled 0.92% and 1.02%.
Elsewhere, SAP AG (SAPG.XETRA) plunged 3.04% after the German technology company reported quarterly sales and earnings below analysts' estimates.
Akzo Nobel (AKZO.AMS) extended earlier losses, with shares diving 6.07%, after the specialty chemicals group posted revenue that misses market projections.
In London, FTSE 100 dipped 0.01%, still weighed by Babcock International Group (BAB.LSE), down 11.56%, after shareholders gave a nearly unanimous approval to the support services firm's proposed takeover of helicopter company Avincis.
Meanwhile, RSA Insurance (RSA.LSE) remained one of the leading stocks on the index, with shares surging 2.89% following reports the company is selling its operations in the Baltics and Poland for £300 million.
In the financial sector, stocks turned mixed. The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.LSE) slipped 0.17% and HSBC Holding (HSBA.LSE) dropped 0.63%, while Lloyds Banking (LLOY.LSE) advanced 0.83% and Barclays (BARC.LSE) jumped 1.13%.
Mining stocks remained broadly lower on the other hand, as Glencore Xstrata (GLEN.LSE) fell 0.25% and Bhp Billiton (BLT.LSE) tumbled 1.20%, while rivals Rio Tinto (RIO.LSE) and Fresnillo (FRES.LSE) lost 1.13% and 2.57% respectively.
In the U.S., equity markets pointed to a lower open. The Dow 30 futures pointed to a 0.24% fall, S&P 500 futures signaled a 0.21% loss, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a 0.07% dip.
Also Thursday, official data showed that German producer price inflation fell 0.3% in March, confounding expectations for a 0.1% uptick, after a flat reading the previous month.
Later in the day, the U.S. was to publish data on initial jobless claims and a report on manufacturing activity in the Philadelphia region.