European shares fell for a third consecutive session on Wednesday in response to evidence of growing momentum in the U.S. economic recovery that could mean a scaling-back of stimulus by the Federal Reserve.
Standard Chartered was a stand-out faller, dropping 6.5 percent in heavy volume as it warned that profit would probably drop this year after Asian growth slowed over the past five months.
"Today's below-expectation results will likely lead to downgrades of over 5 percent to earnings forecasts for 2013 and potentially 2014," said Jonathan Jackson, head of equities at Killik & Co. "We prefer HSBC for its more diversified earnings stream and higher dividend yield."
The results, however, contributed to a 1.3 percent fall in larger rival HSBC.
Banks were the worst performing sector as the FTSEurofirst 300 shed 7.26 points, or 0.6 percent to 1,273.59, closing below support around the 1,278 level.
The euro zone blue chip index fell below 3,000 for the first time since October, but it found technical support to bounce off a session low and close at 2,991.76.
Craig Erlam, analyst at Alpari, is bearish on the technical outlook for European indexes, although he noted some big support levels on the Euro STOXX 50 - at 2,977, and 2,955.