EUROPE MARKETS: European Stocks End Lower, Retreating From 20-month High Ahead Of Fed

By Sara Sjolin and Victor Reklaitis, MarketWatch Features Dow Jones Newswires

Novo Nordisk rallies after earnings beat views

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European stock markets finished down slightly from a 20-month high on Wednesday, holding lower after a reading on eurozone economic growth matched the market's expectations.

Investors also erred on the side of caution ahead of the latest rate decision from the U.S. Federal Reserve, due after the close for European markets.

The Stoxx Europe 600 index lost less than 0.1% to end at 389.37, after closing at the highest level since August 2015 on Tuesday (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/european-stocks-get-a-lift-from-upbeat-factory-data-greek-bailout-deal-2017-05-02).

The U.K.'s FTSE 100 index closed 0.2% lower (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/miners-sainsburys-yank-ftse-100-into-the-red-2017-05-03) at 7,234.53 on Wednesday, while France's CAC 40 index gave up 0.1% to end at 5,301. Germany's DAX 30 index bucked the negative trend, rising 0.2% to finish at 12,527.84.

Hugo Boss AG's stock (BOSS.XE) was one of the big losers in the pan-European index, closing down 2.9% after the fashion clothier's first quarter-earnings report. While the German company posted a 25% rise in profit (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/hugo-boss-profit-up-25-amid-cost-cuts-2017-05-03), analysts at Citi noted that its retail performance was weak in the quarter, due to difficult business conditions in key markets such as France, Germany and the U.S.

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On the upside, shares of Novo Nordisk AS (NOVO-B.KO) (NOVO-B.KO) rallied 6.8% after the Danish insulin maker posted first-quarter earnings (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/novo-nordisk-earnings-beat-views-narrows-guidance-2017-05-03) that beat forecasts.

Economic growth: The eurozone's gross domestic product rose by 0.5% in the first quarter of 2017, widely meeting analysts' expectations. That was the same reading as in the fourth quarter of 2016, according to upwardly-revised data from Eurostat.

In other economic news, producer prices in the euro area fell by a steeper-than-expected 0.3% in March.

The euro bought $1.0910 after the reports, compared with $1.0921 just before the release. It most recently was buying $1.0918. The shared currency exchanged hands at $1.0932 late Tuesday in New York.

The German unemployment rate in April stayed at 5.8% (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/german-jobless-rate-stays-at-lowest-since-1992-2017-05-03), the lowest since the country's reunification in 1992.

In the wake of the European markets' closes, the Fed will end its two-day policy meeting by announcing its interest rate decision. The U.S. central bank is widely expected to keep rates on hold and not make any changes until its June meeting. Investors around the globe closely track the Fed's policy statements and their implications for the world's largest economy and other countries.

"The Fed's March dot plot implied three rate hikes of 25 basis points each this year (including the March hike) and more recently--even after the sinking of the health care bill--several Fed speakers have repeated that they anticipate to hike three times this year, and even hinted at the possibility of four hikes depending on the economic data," analysts at Rabobank said in a note.

Read:6 things to watch for in the Fed's policy statement (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/six-things-to-watch-for-in-the-feds-policy-statement-2017-05-02)

Other movers: Shares of J Sainsbury PLC (SBRY.LN) declined 5.7%. The British supermarket giant reported a 0.6% fall in full-year like-for-like sales and cut dividends 16% (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/sainsburys-cuts-dividend-as-full-year-sales-fall-2017-05-03). It also was hurt by a report that the top four U.K. supermarkets all lost market share (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/top-4-uk-supermarkets-get-easter-egg-sales-boost-2017-05-03) in the first three months of the year.

Fresenius SE & Co. (FRE.XE) closed 2.6% higher after the German health-care company reported a 28% jump in earnings and lifted its full-year guidance (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/fresenius-posts-double-digit-sales-earnings-rise-2017-05-03).

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 03, 2017 12:19 ET (16:19 GMT)