European shares close at six-week lows on Fed fears
European equities closed at six-week lows on Wednesday, as global markets awaited a policy announcement by the U.S. Federal Reserve.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 Index provisionally closed lower by 0.6 percent at 1,290.47 points, with U.S. stocks also in steep decline as investors confronted less-than-expected earnings, concerns deepened about emerging markets, and Wall Street braced for the Fed's next move on stimulus.
(Track: US markets with CNBC)
The Fed will announce its latest policy move later on Wednesday. It is expected to cut another $10 billion from its now $75-billion-a-month bond-buying program.
Sentiment was also dampened on Wednesday by Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, who used a speech in Scotland to reiterate that Britain's economic recovery was incomplete.
"Even though employment is growing and unemployment has fallen — particularly so recently in Scotland — the recovery has some way to run before it would be appropriate to consider moving away from the emergency setting of monetary policy," he said.
(Read more: Carney to Scotland: Be careful what you wish for)
German data beats
On the data front, the German GfK consumer climate survey for February surprised on the upside. The forward-looking index showed an uptick to to 8.2 percent, against expectations of 7.6 percent.
Carsten Brzeski, a senior economist at ING, said this optimism should eventually feed through into the real economy.
"Unless all Germans all of a sudden have become a bunch of dreamers, a substantial acceleration of the economy should be in the making," he said in a research note.
Spanish retail sales for December showed a dip of 1 percent. This compares to November's figure which showed a gain of 1.8 percent.
In addition, euro zone-wide data showed that lending to households and companies contracted in December, and money supply growth slowed sharply. This may add to pressure on the European Central Bank to do more to support the euro zone's weak economy.
(Read more: Euro zone money supply dries up, pressuring Draghi)
In stocks news, Nordea shares closed down around 2.3 percent after the Nordic-based financial services group announced a fourth-quarter profit miss and increased cost saving measures.
Shares of Anglo American surged by 5.6 percent after reporting its iron ore output had risen more than expected, and its copper output hit a new quarterly record.
Fellow miner Antofagasta led the European benchmarks, closing higher by roughly 6.1 percent, after announcing its cash costs for 2014 would be in-line with last year.
Shares of Sainsburys dropped 2.5 percent after the supermarket announced CEO Justin King would step down. Mike Coupe will be the new CEO, effective from July 9, 2014.
(Read more: Sainsbury's sharesfall as King abdicates)
Fiat shares dipped by 4.1 percent after the carmaker cut its 2014 profit forecasts, highlighting weakness in Latin America.
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