The HSBC Flash China manufacturing purchasing managers' index showed manufacturing in China shrank for the 11th straight month in September, with the headline reading remaining below the 50 mark between contraction and expansion. The headline print rose to 47.8 from 47.6 in August.
Meanwhile, Markit Economics said that the eurozone composite PMI, which includes data points on both the manufacturing and services sectors, declined to 45.9 from 46.3 in August, the lowest level since June 2009.
A small bright spot was Germany, where manufacturing, though still indicating contraction, came in at its highest level since March.
The Spanish Treasury was able to sell €4.8 billion ($6.2 billion) of three- and 10-year bonds amid strong investor demand, even with the nation's bailout plans remaining unclear.
The FTSE in London closed down 0.57% and the DAX in Germany finished down 0.02%. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index closed down by 1.20% and the Nikkei in Japan finished declined 1.57% on Thursday.
Meantime, the Labor Department reported initial jobless claims for the week ended Sept. 15 fell 3,000 to 382,000 from the previous week's upwardly revised figure of 385,000. Economists were expecting a level of 375,000.
The four-week moving average was 377,750, an increase of 2,000 from the previous week's revised average of 375,750.
Continuing claims during the week ended Sept. 8 were 3.272 million, a decrease of 32,000 from the preceding week's upwardly revised level of 3.304 million. The expected level was 3.293 million.
"We believe that there has been little change in the underlying pace of layoffs during the first half of September," said RBS economists in a note. "However, ongoing uncertainty could be dampening hiring, which would keep payroll growth soft in the coming months."
In more PMI data, the Markit flash U.S. manufacturing purchasing managers' index was unchanged at 51.5 in September.
In other economic data, the Philadelphia Fed Index increased 5 points, to a reading of -1.9 in September, marking the fifth consecutive negative reading for the index but edging nearer to zero over the last three months. Economists were expecting a reading of -4.