Investing.com - European stocks turned lower on Wednesday, weighed by the downgrade of Italy's sovereign credit rating, while investors eyed the minutes of the Federal Reserve's latest policy meeting later in the day.
During European afternoon trade, the EURO STOXX 50 retreated 0.72%, France's CAC 40 declined 0.67%, while Germany's DAX 30 slid 0.49%.
Standard & Poor's lowered Italy's sovereign credit rating to BBB from BBB+, citing the country's weak economic prospects. The new rating is two notches above "junk" status. S&P also gave Italy a "negative" outlook.
Separately, European Central Bank executive board member Jorg Asmussen on Tuesday said the central bank may keep interest rates at record lows for more than 12 months.
The comments came after ECB President Mario Draghi said last week that rates would remain at low levels for an "extended" period, amid ongoing weakness in the euro zone economy.
Financial stocks remained mostly lower, as French lenders BNP Paribas and Societe Generale fell 0.29% and 0.02%, while Germany's Deutsche Bank jumped 1.73%.
Among peripheral lenders, Spanish banks Banco Santander and BBVA plummeted 1.55% and 2.67% respectively, while Italy's Intesa Sanpaolo and Unicredit tumbled 1.53% and 1.68%.
Elsewhere, Roche shares were down 0.21%, following reports the Swiss drugmaker halted testing of aleglitazar, an experimental treatment for diabetes, after a panel raised safety and efficacy concerns in a final-phase clinical trial.
In London, commodity-heavy FTSE 100 dropped 0.60%, weighed by losses in mining stocks.
Mining giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto retreated 0.97% and 1% respectively, while Fresnillo and Polymetal sank 3.47% and 4.37%.
Financial stocks also turned mostly lower, as HSBC Holdings slipped 0.29% and the Royal Bank of Scotland dropped 0.65%, while Lloyds Banking plummeted 1.52%. Barclays overperformed on the other hand, climbing 0.60%.
Meanwhile, Burberry continued to lead gains, surging 3.99% after the luxury retailer said its spring-summer collection helped increase retail sales in its fiscal first quarter more than estimated.
In the U.S., equity markets pointed to a steady open. The Dow Jones Industrial Average futures pointed to a 0.01% dip, S&P 500 futures signaled a 0.05% loss, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a 0.06% slip.
Also Wednesday, official data showed that industrial production in France fell 0.4% in May, less than the expected 0.8% decline, after a 2.2% increase the previous month.
The Fed was to release the minutes of its June policy meeting later in the day, while a speech by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke was also in focus.
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