The pan-European STOXX 600 ended down 1.2 percent at its lowest level since Nov. 23. The euro zone stock index and Germany's DAX also fell 1.2 percent. U.S. stock markets were shut on Wednesday for a day of mourning in honour of former president George H.W. Bush who died last week.
"Cyclicals are really dependent upon accelerations in growth, they're very real economy sensitive for higher revenues," said John Ricciardi, CEO and lead portfolio manager at Kestrel Investment Partners.
The inversion of parts of the U.S. yield curve means investors are beginning to panic about future growth and inflation, Ricciardi added.
Analysts cut their estimates for 2019 earnings growth as markets turned sour this autumn.
Banks also fell, down 0.7 percent, but losses were limited by a bounce in Italian lenders as Italian government bond yields continued to fall sharply on hopes that Rome could cut its budget spending plans.
Tech stocks fell 1.8 percent after the highly valued U.S. tech sector sold off.
German carmakers slightly outperformed the DAX as investors digested what seemed a relatively positive outcome from a meeting of auto executives at the White House.
U.S. President Donald Trump pressed carmakers to increase investments in the United States, something the executives said they planned to do but wouldn't be able to if the administration went ahead with threatened tariffs.
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, among those in the meeting, said he did not think that car tariffs were imminent.
Daimler and BMW and Volkswagen all fell less than 0.9 percent.
Shares in valve manufacturers Rotork and Weir , which supply the oil industry, tumbled after U.S. energy services firm Schlumberger warned on Tuesday, that a drop in fracking activity would hit its North America revenues.
Swedish pharma firm Elekta was a rare gainer, up 3.5 percent after it won Food & Drug Administration clearance for its "Unity" radiation therapy, clearing it for commercial sales and clinical use in the United States.
M&A news was also a driver.
Shares in Shire jumped 3 percent after shareholders of Japan's Takeda approved the takeover of the London-listed pharmaceutical firm.
Among small-caps, Swedish retailer Clas Ohlson provided the latest example of the squeeze on the sector to close physical stores as shoppers switch to online purchases.
Broker notes hit some stocks. Hargreaves Lansdown fell 4.4 percent after Morgan Stanley cut its rating to underweight.
(Reporting by Helen Reid, Editing by Josephine Mason, Jon Boyle and Kirsten Donovan)
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