Pre-ECB jitters knock 1% off European stocks

(Reuters) – European stocks were on course for their biggest decline in three weeks on Wednesday, a day ahead of a European Central Bank meeting that will see policymakers debate a cut in its stimulus.

FILE PHOTO: The German share price index DAX graph is pictured at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, September 7, 2021. REUTERS/Staff

The Europe-focussed STOXX 600 index fell 1.3%, tracking overnight losses on Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 and Asian stocks on worries about the slowing pace of a global economic recovery. [.N]

Economy-sensitive financial services, auto, oil & gas, and banking stocks were the biggest decliners, down between 1.6% and 1.8%, while travel stocks fell the least.

“It’s only a month ago that stocks were at all-time highs, and with an ECB meeting tomorrow, people will be unwilling to buy because it can be a bit of a risky trade,” said David Madden, market analyst at Equiti Capital in London.

“It’s more of what happened in the U.S. last night and just a bit of position squaring ahead of ECB.”

Austria’s central bank chief Robert Holzmann, considered as a hawkish member of the ECB, said the central bank could tighten policy sooner than many expect as inflationary pressures could prove to be persistent.

The central bank is expected to announce a reduction in bond buying on Thursday, with analysts polled by Reuters forecasting purchases under the Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme (PEPP) falling possibly as low as 60 billion euros ($70.91 billion) a month from the current 80 billion euros. However, doves are also expected to emphasize that other tools will be ramped up.

After hitting a record high in mid-August, the STOXX 600 has hovered below those levels as worries over central bank policies and signs of slowing global growth kept investors on the edge.

Brokerage actions also spurred losses in stocks, with Spanish turbine maker Siemens Gamesa down 6.3% after JPMorgan downgraded the stock to a “neutral” rating. Danish peer Vestas also fell 3.6%.

Swedish investment company EQT fell 4.8% after a share placing deal, while Stellantis dropped 2.4% as Dongfeng Motor Hong Kong said it had sold shares in the carmaker for about 600 million euros ($710 million).

French drugmaker Sanofi slipped 1.9% after it agreed to buy U.S. biopharmaceutical company Kadmon Holdings Inc in a $1.9 billion deal.

British industrial technology company Smiths Group rose 4.3% after it agreed to sell its medical unit to U.S.-based ICU Medical Inc for $2.4 billion.

($1 = 0.8461 euros)

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