Euro Shares End Lower as Bears Control

European shares ended firmly lower Wednesday after a volatile trading day as fears of a prolonged slowdown in the U.S. brought sellers into the market.

Temporary support came from JPMorgan after the U.S. banking giant said profit was higher than analysts' expectations. Its subprime-related writedowns were $1.3 billion, compared with Citigroup's more than $18 billion.

Shares in Asia closed sharply lower across the board, with Hong Kong's Hang Seng index losing 5.4 percent. U.S. stocks were mostly lower as investors remained jittery about the prospects of a recession, while sifting through the latest earnings reports.

Meanwhile, in technology stocks, ASML reported a fourth-quarter profit that topped market expectations. But while the Dutch chip-equipment maker said it expects robust sales for the first half of the year, expectations on new machine orders were disappointing and shares tumbled over 6.9 percent.

Mobile phone maker Sony-Ericsson reported better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings and said it had gained market share in the quarter and in 2007 as a whole.

Meanwhile rival Nokia's closure of a factory in Bochum, Germany, may endanger another 2,000 area jobs beyond the 2,300 at the plant, according to the Rheinische Post newspaper. The news sent shares down by 0.9 percent.

And in the aerospace sector, EADS, owner of Airbus, is set to update the market on predictions for 2008 amid talk the plane maker may move some production into the dollar zone. EADS shares closed flat.

Separately, reports say that rival Boeing may be facing delays to production of its new 787 Dreamliner.