LONDON European stock markets fell on Friday, weighed down by a drop in the shares of healthcare companies, while the latest nuclear test conducted by North Korea also rattled markets.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index was down 0.3 percent, adding to a pullback from the previous session after some investors expressed disappointment at the fact that the European Central Bank (ECB) had not discussed an extension of the timetable for its economic stimulus programme.
World stock markets in general were also lower, with Asian markets falling after North Korea conducted its fifth nuclear test on Friday, setting off a blast that was more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in World War Two.
Europe's STOXX 600 had hit an eight-month high earlier in the week but has since drifted down from that level, with the index down 5 percent since the start of 2016.
"Some people in the market had been positioned for a bit more stimulus from the ECB, but the sell-off has not been too dramatic. We are having a little bit of a consolidation after reaching highs earlier in the week," said Clairinvest fund manager Ion-Marc Valahu.
The STOXX Europe 600 Healthcare index underperformed to shed 0.9 percent, with Novo Nordisk down 1.8 percent after JP Morgan cut its rating on the stock to "neutral" from "overweight".
Shares in British pub operator Greene King fell sharply after the company warned trading conditions could get tougher following Britain's 'Brexit' vote in June to quit the European Union.
However, shares in French company Rubis - which specialises in the petroleum and chemicals sector and operates storage facilities - rose to a record high after posting higher interim profits.
(Editing by Gareth Jones)