European stocks close lower on US election uncertainty; Oil prices tumble

European shares ended lower on Wednesday as the race for U.S. presidential election intensified and investors reacted to a slide in oil prices while keeping a close eye on the Federal Reserve announcement.

Italian banks fall

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The Stoxx 600 was down 1.13 percent. All sectors closed in negative territory at the end of European trading with Autos leading the slide having dropped more than 2.5 percent.

The banking sector was also one of the poorest performers on Wednesday, falling 2.3 percent. Italian banks struggled significantly after media reports that the government could delay the upcoming referendum on constitutional reform. However the news reports were quickly denied by Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's office. Shares of Banco Popolare were down 7.04 percent and Banca Pop Milano were down 7.69 percent.

Meanwhile, the Dow Jones industrial average and the broader S&P 500 index continued to trade lower as markets prepared for the Federal Reserve's statement on Wednesday.


US election in focus

Investors are reconsidering their bets on a Clinton victory as opinion polls show the gap between the Democrat and the Republican candidates narrowing. A broad benchmark for Asian shares fell to a seven-week low overnight on the news.

The Clinton campaign is asking the FBI to disclose information on any ties between her opponent, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, and Russia. The Democrats blame the FBI for "unfair" publicity too close to election day.

Oil prices, meanwhile, were contracting for a fourth consecutive day. Brent was trading at $46.61 a barrel, falling 3.18 percent and WTI was at $45.23 dropping 3.09 percent after a bigger-than-expected build in U.S. crude inventories.

Lufthansa, Hugo Boss, Persimmon earnings

In Europe, data released by the British Retail Consortium showed that U.K. prices have not increased for consumers in the fallout of the Brexit vote. A Nationwide index showed on Wednesday that house prices remain steady in the U.K. during the month of October, with a year-on-year growth rate of 4.6 percent from 5.3 percent in the previous month.

The euro area's October final manufacturing PMI index came in at 53.5, compared to 52.6 in September, growing close to a three-year high.

In terms of corporate earnings, Germany's Lufthansa announced its adjusted earnings before interest and taxes fell 6.5 percent in the third quarter. Its shares were down 2.5 percent by the close.

Hugo Boss also reported a drop in third-quarter profits, but the numbers were better-than-expected. Its shares rose 4.2 percent on Wednesday. Persimmon saw its second-half operating margin improving from the first half, with private sales going up 19 percent and its shares 0.8 percent in the black.

Moller-Maersk Group saw a slump in third-quarter profits due to low freight prices which it said were down 16 percent year-on-year. The world's largest shipping company reached the bottom of the Stoxx 600 in morning trade, with shares falling more than 9 percent. However the stock managed to recover slightly, closing 7.1 percent lower at the end of the trading day.

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