By Barbara Kollmeyer
European stocks struggled on Wednesday, as losses for Wall Street weighed on sentiment, and investors waited for the outcome of a Federal Reserve meeting and technology company results.
The Stoxx Europe 600 index /zigman2/quotes/210599654/delayed XX:SXXP +0.89% slid 1.4% to 401.59, after a 0.6% gain on Tuesday. Elsewhere, the German DAX /zigman2/quotes/210597999/delayed DX:DAX +1.34% slumped 2.2%, the French CAC 40 /zigman2/quotes/210597958/delayed FR:PX1 +0.45% lost 1.7%, and the FTSE 100 index /zigman2/quotes/210598409/delayed UK:UKX +0.76% fell 1.6%.
After a slightly weaker close for Wall Street on Tuesday , U.S. stocks /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +0.74% /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA +0.66% /zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime COMP +0.88% fell as trading began Wednesday . That is as computer software giant Microsoft /zigman2/quotes/207732364/composite MSFT +1.09% reported record earnings , hitting $40 billion in quarterly sales for the first time.
Investors are waiting on results from technology giants Apple /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL +0.53% and Facebook /zigman2/quotes/205064656/composite FB -0.29% , along with electric-car maker Tesla /zigman2/quotes/203558040/composite TSLA +1.33% after the close of trading on Wednesday.
Investors will also get a decision from the Federal Reserve, followed by a news conference with Chair Jerome Powell, with hopes the central bank will continue with a supportive stance for markets amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Global coronavirus virus infections topped the 100 million mark on Tuesday, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University
The U.K. also reached a milestone on Tuesday, surpassing 100,000 COVID-19 deaths, the first European country to do so. Home Secretary Priti Patel is expected to announce new rules on Wednesday to limit the influx of visitors to the U.K.
Shares of Royal KPN /zigman2/quotes/200683801/delayed NL:KPN -1.06% jumped 2.6%, after the Dutch telecommunications company said fourth-quarter net profit more than doubled , boosted by one-off items. It also raised its cash-flow guidance for 2021.
Shares of Sanofi /zigman2/quotes/201967021/composite SNY +1.59% /zigman2/quotes/206928357/delayed FR:SAN +1.35% fell 1.6%. The pharmaceutical group said it would help BioNTech /zigman2/quotes/214419716/composite BNTX +9.35% produce the COVID-19 vaccine it is codeveloping with U.S. drug company Pfizer /zigman2/quotes/202877789/composite PFE +1.00% .
Sanofi said that it will continue to develop its two candidates against COVID-19. Sanofi and U.K. pharmaceutical group GlaxoSmithKline /zigman2/quotes/209463850/composite GSK +1.16% /zigman2/quotes/200381158/delayed UK:GSK +0.85% announced in December a delay of their joint COVID-19 vaccine, after the first trials showed an insufficient response in older patients.
EDF /zigman2/quotes/201783867/delayed FR:EDF +0.55% shares fell 2.8%, after the French utility released an updated schedule and cost estimates for the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station, saying it sees a delay and higher costs due to the pandemic.
Another big decliner was Danish shipping giant A.P. Moller-Maersk /zigman2/quotes/208739220/delayed DK:MAERSK.A -0.98% , whose shares fell 6%.
There were outsized gainers, which some attributed to big gains seen recently for U.S.-based videogames retailer GameStop /zigman2/quotes/203755179/composite GME +0.06% and movie-theater chain AMC Entertainment /zigman2/quotes/200235402/composite AMC +5.67% . The moves come as retail investors, organizing via forums such as Reddit’s WallStreetBets, have sought to boost a group of heavily shorted stocks.
A number of short positions on European stocks were under attack, with shares in French real-estate investment trust Klépierre /zigman2/quotes/205805944/delayed FR:LI +0.22% climbing nearly 20%, leading the Stoxx Europe 600’s best performers on Wednesday.