LONDON (Reuters) - European shares slid on Wednesday as worries over a possible trade war dented sentiment and investors awaited the conclusion of a U.S. Federal Reserve meeting for signals on the pace of expected interest rate rises.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index fell 0.2 percent, as financials and industrials retreated, although it ended off lows, helped by strength among commodity stocks and a positive turn on Wall Street.
The STOXX dropped sharply earlier in the afternoon following a report in the Wall Street Journal that China was planning counter-measures against U.S. tariffs. Fears of a possible trade war have simmered since U.S. President Donald Trump announced plans to introduce tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.
“The Fed meeting is really the big event of the day. What we’re looking out for most is the forward guidance ... it’s how the accompanying statement is worded, whether it proves particularly hawkish, whether policymakers are guiding towards four rate hikes this year as opposed to three,” said Henry Croft, research analyst at Accendo Markets.
Financials contributed the most to losses, with the European banking sector .SX7P down 0.9 percent, led lower by a 5.5 percent drop in Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) after negative comments from its CFO around the outlook for the first quarter.
Speaking at an investor conference, Deutsche CFO James von Moltke said he expected a 450 million euro ($553 million) headwind for its Corporate and Investment Banking business in the first quarter.
European tech stocks .SX8P advanced 0.3 percent, propped up by gains among semiconductor makers.
The sector has seen little fallout so far from the reports of Facebook (FB.O) data misuse that have sent the U.S. social media giant’s shares down 10 percent over the past two sessions.
French luxury goods maker Hermes (HRMS.PA) jumped 2.4 percent after its profit margin reached a record in 2017 and the company increased its dividend.
It was still doom and gloom in the British retail sector, with Kingfisher (KGF.L) down 10.7 percent after beating full-year earnings forecasts but warning that the UK market was “more uncertain”.
Smaller UK stock Moss Bros (MOSB.L), which makes men’s suits and formal wear, tumbled 22.2 percent after a profit warning while retailer Carpetright (CPRC.L), up 0.9 percent after touching a new all-time low, said that it was raising capital to try to turn its business around.
Ubisoft (UBIP.PA) rose 3.8 percent after Vivendi (VIV.PA) sold its entire stake in the video game maker for 2 billion euros. Ubisoft has long opposed the French media group’s involvement in the company.
Vivendi’s shares rose 0.7 percent.
Elsewhere, Getinge (GETIb.ST) fell 6.9 percent after the Swedish medical technology group said it would book a 350 million crown ($42.6 million) provision in the first quarter related mainly to a fraud probe in Brazil.
UK retail landlord Hammerson (HMSO.L), which has rejected a takeover approached from French shopping center operator Klepierre, spiked higher in afternoon trading, rising 5.2 percent to the top of the STOXX.
Basic resources stocks .SXPP reversed earlier losses to end up 1.7 percent, leading sectoral gainers in the region, propped up by a rebound in metal prices.
A surge in crude oil prices to a six-week high following a surprise decline in U.S. inventories boosted energy stocks .SXEP, which ended up 1.3 percent.
($1 = 8.2304 Swedish crowns)
Reporting by Kit Rees, additional reporting by Danilo Masoni, editing by Tom Pfeiffer and Toby Davis