* FTSEurofirst 300 down 0.6 pct, Euro STOXX 50 down 0.5 pct
* FTSE 100 underperforms, hit by ex-div stocks
* Thin volumes ahead of FOMC minutes due at 1800 GMT
By Blaise Robinson
PARIS, Aug 21 European stocks fell on Wednesday,
after a sell-off the previous day, as investors avoided making
fresh bets before eagerly awaited Federal Reserve minutes.
The U.S. central bank is set to release at 1800 GMT the
minutes of its July policy meeting, which may shed light on when
it will start scaling back its massive quantitative easing
programme that has fuelled a rally in world equities over the
The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares
fell 0.6 percent to 1,207.71 points, after dropping 0.8 percent
on Tuesday, dragged lower by mounting expectations the Fed will
start cutting the amount of bonds it buys each month as soon as
Trading volumes were muted, representing only about
three-quarters of the daily average volumes seen in the past 90
"After showing strong resilience despite the pull-back on
Wall Street, European stocks are finally losing steam," FXCM
analyst Vincent Ganne said.
"But so far, that's just a bit of healthy profit-taking
after such a big rally, and the FOMC minutes might as well turn
out to be a non-event. Meanwhile, we still see 'buy' signals on
Among regional indexes, London's FTSE 100
underperformed, losing 1 percent, taking a technical hit as a
clutch of companies including global bank HSBC traded
without entitlement to their latest dividend payout.
France's CAC 40 dipped 0.3 percent, while Germany's
DAX slid 0.2 percent.
Investors were turning to defensive stocks in sectors such
as telecoms and utilities, while the bout of profit-taking in
cyclical shares that started last week continued.
Deutsche Telekom gained 0.5 percent, EDF
added 0.2 percent, while miners Rio Tinto and BHP
Billiton lost 2.1 and 2.6 percent respectively.
French water and waste group Veolia was the top
performing stock across Europe, jumping 8.3 percent, with
traders citing an upbeat note from Morgan Stanley in which it
said the company was the most attractive turnaround story in the
Heineken was among the biggest fallers, skidding 4
percent after the Dutch brewer gave a muted outlook for the
The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index,
which had surged nearly 15 percent from late June to late last
week, fell 0.5 percent on Wednesday, to 2,774.58 points.
"I do see (stimulus withdrawal) as a very gradual process
which equities can digest, but we are cautiously positioned and
expect volatility," Richard Champion, chief investment officer
at Sanlam Private Investments (UK) Ltd, said.