Europe close: Stocks walloped by lockdown blues
European shares were lower on Wednesday as investors held fire ahead of a US Federal Reserve decision on policy later in the day and a row between AstraZeneca and the EU over Covid-19 vaccine supply dampened sentiment.
The pan-European Stoxx 600 index ended down 1.16% at 402.98 while the German Dax retreated 1.81% to 13,620.46 and the FTSE Mibtel lost 1.47% to 21,662.73.
Weighing on issues, data released on Wednesday showed that consumer sentiment plummeted in the euro area's largest economy.
Consultancy GfK's consumer confidence index hit -15.6 in February against the -7.8 forecast by economists as extending a stricter lockdown to contain the coronavirus pandemic put a halt to shopping.
Investors were also eyeing a bumper day of US corporate earnings from Apple, Facebook and Tesla.
As coronavirus infections in Europe soared, with a million new infections every four days, the EU attacked AstraZeneca over its announcement that it would not fully meet a contract to supply its vaccine.
The company argued that the EU's late decision to agree a contract meant the company did not have enough time to iron out glitches in setting up production lines.
In equity news, Danish medical equipment maker Ambu led the gainers after the company reported a 39% rise in first quarter revenue. The shares rose 11.83% on the news.
Evotec shares rose after the US Department of Defence had awarded the German drug maker a $28.6m contract to produce monoclonal antibodies for use in the development of a treatment for Covid-19.
LVMH dipped as booming sales at fashion brands like Louis Vuitton, particularly in China, helped to cushion the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Centrica shares rose 4.46% after a 'buy' recommendation from Goldman Sachs.
Shares in French shopping mall operators Klepierre and Unibail surged 22% and 20% respectively, after comments from a government minister eased concerns about a third national lockdown.