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Europe: Shares dip as earnings fail to dispel US rate worries

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[LONDON] European shares fell on Wednesday as a batch of corporate results failed to offset concerns that US interest rates could rise faster than expected.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 index fell 0.7 per cent, with most bourses and sectors losing ground.

Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell's comments on the strengthening US economy and inflation on Tuesday also shortened the odds on it hiking interest rates four times this year.

"This was a clear shot across the bows from the new Chair, suggesting that - if it is up to him - the FOMC may want to revise its current projections of three hikes for this year up to include a fourth," Rabobank commented.

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Mr Powell's comments sent Wall Street lower on Tuesday and on Wednesday, US stocks gave up their early gains.

Results from European corporates on Wednesday also failed to lift investors' spirits.

Travis Perkins was the heaviest faller on the Stoxx, dropping 10.5 per cent. Britain's biggest supplier of building materials dashed hopes for an increase in profit this year, forecasting a flat performance, and said it would slow investment in non-priority areas.

German drugmaker Bayer's lost 1.9 per cent as earnings were dragged lower by discounts to crop protection distributors in Brazil. It also said it needed more time to wrap up the planned takeover of US seeds giant Monsanto.

In the same sector, France's Biomerieux fell 10.4 per cent after publishing disappointing annual results.

Belgium's Solvay fell 3.5 per cent as it forecast lower growth in 2018, with a fall in profitability at its traditional chemicals business.

Better news came from Dutch-Belgian supermarket operator Ahold Delhaize which expects to save roughly 200 million euros from US tax cuts this year. Its shares rose 3 per cent.

In the banking sector, EFG International fell 9.7 per cent after reporting a worse-than-expected full year net loss as it absorbed integration costs from its takeover of rival Swiss private bank BSI.

Austrian lender Erste Group got a better market response to its earnings and jumped 6.6 per cent. Its net profits were buoyed by a rise in interest rates in eastern Europe and steady growth in banking fees and lending income.

In the UK, ITV lost 7.6 per cent. The British broadcaster reported a 5 per cent drop in adjusted full-year earnings, reflecting a tough advertising environment.

Dialog Semiconductor led gainers with a 6.6 per cent rise after it published its results.

REUTERS