European Stocks Fall, Snapping Three-Week Rally as ECB Policy Decision Looms

Stock prices increasing and decreasing in value
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European equity benchmarks were lower on Monday morning after three weeks of gains as investors looked ahead to a decision due to be released by the European Central Bank (ECB) on Thursday regarding whether it will change its monetary easing policy.

Policy makers at the ECB will contemplate this week whether to stimulate the 19-member euro region's economy by adding to an existing 60-billion euros ($65.73 billion) per month quantitative easing program or by pushing interest rates further into negative territory from minus 0.3%. Last week, euro area annual inflation for February was forecast to be -0.2%, down from 0.3% in January, according to an estimate from the European Union's statistical office Eurostat showed. This contrasts to the ECB's goal of achieving inflation of just below 2.0%.

Electricity production and distribution company Electricite de France (EDF.PA) led the decliners among European stocks on Monday after its chief financial officer resigned. Thomas Piquemal reportedly quit over his concern that a final decision on investing into a new reactor in a UK power station will be rushed, jeopardizing the company's financial position, the Financial Times reported, citing people familiar with the circumstances of his resignation.

Shares in Ocado (OCDO.L) were down on concern that Amazon's tie-up with UK supermarket chain Morrisons to supply the e-commerce giant's UK food delivery business could hurt the British online grocer. UK insurer Old Mutual (OML.L) rose after saying that it is conducting a strategic review of its business. A Sky News report suggested the insurer was planning a GBP 9 billion break-up its operations into multiple standalone companies.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index dropped 0.4% and the euro-region blue-chip STOXX 50 index fell 0.5%. The FTSE 100 in London was 0.4% lower and Germany's DAX index slid 0.7%. The CAC 40 in Paris fell 0.4%.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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