European equities pushed sharply lower Thursday, tracking weakness in their global counterparts amid speculations the U.S. Federal Reserve may soon reduce its asset purchase program.
Some downbeat data in the region also weighed.
Minutes of the Fed Reserve’s latest policy meeting released yesterday showed several Fed officials discussed about slowing or stopping of bond purchases amid worries the policy could hurt financial markets.
Meanwhile, data released in the region further eroded confidence. The preliminary composite purchasing-managers’ index PMI for the euro-zone slumped to a two month low of 47.3 in February from 48.6 in January. A reading above 50 shows expansion in the economy.
Readings for the French manufacturing PMI also disappointed although Germany's manufacturing PMI rose to a seasonally adjusted 50.1 in February. But service sector activity in Europe's largest economy grew at its slowest pace in two months during February.
Stocks on the move
Financials were trading lower across the region. Germany’s Commerzbank dropped 2.1% while Deutsche Bank tumbled nearly 4%.
In France, BNP Paribas and Societe Generale lost around 2.5% each while London-based Barclays Plc. eased 1.5% even as Lloyds Banking Group shed 2.2%.
Resources stocks also underwent sharp cuts. BHP Billiton plc. slumped over 3% while Rio Tinto Plc. dropped over 2.5% on the resource-heavy FTSE 100 index.
In earnings-related moves, Schenider Electric SA jumped 3% after the company posted a 3% rise in its full-year net profit.
French retailer Casino Guichard-Perrachon SA slipped 0.7% after reporting a drop in underlying net profit for 2012.
Also on the downside, Safran SA plunged over 4% despite posting stronger-than-expected full year earnings after the French aerospace supplier said revenue and operating profits would see moderate growth in 2013.