European shares closed narrowly lower on Tuesday, with global markets cautious amid ongoing worries the Federal Reserve may taper its bond purchase program. The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 closed provisionally down 0.1 percent at 1,250.62 points, retreating from a five-year high of 1,252.09 reached in the previous session.
Market speculation about the tapering off of quantitative easing (QE) has grown since last week, fueled by speeches from Fed hawks John Williams and Charles Plosser, and by comments made by Chicago Fed President Charles Evans in an interview with CNBC on Monday.
"We've had this huge dependence on QE over the course of the last three or four years," Stephen King, chief global economist at HSBC, told CNBC. "There's no doubt that financial assets have risen dramatically in value as a consequence of QE. I would argue financial markets become increasingly dependent on QE almost as a painkilling drug."
In Greece, the Athens Stock Exchange saw a heavy sell-off and stocks closed nearly 4 percent lower. The National Bank of Greece, which announced a rights issue on Monday, plummeted nearly 27 percent.
JPMorgan, Apple CEOs in Spotlight
A proposal to cleave the roles of chairman and CEO at JPMorgan Chase was defeated in a narrow shareholder vote on Tuesday, strengthening the hand of the bank's embattled chief, Jamie Dimon.
(Read More: JPMorgan Averts CEO/Chair Split, Bolstering Dimon)
Apple CEO Tim Cook, meanwhile, appeared before a U.S. Senate panel this morning on allegations the tech giant is using tax havens to avoid paying taxes. The subcommittee is also examining Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard, among others.
(Read More: Apple Used Irish Unit to Avoid Billions in Taxes)