By Sara Sjolin, MarketWatch

Maersk slides after profit slump

European stocks ended sharply lower on Wednesday, as the possibility of a victory by Donald Trump in next week's U.S. presidential election and lower oil prices spooked global equity markets.

The Stoxx Europe 600 index lost 1.1% to 331.55, ending at its lowest close since July 8. The benchmark has closed lower all days this week, hit by lower oil prices, a mixed bag of earnings and concerns over the U.S. presidential race.

"Despite multiple other market risks and global central bank decisions due, the only thing that really matters to investors is who will claim victory next week, withthe outcome likely to deliver dramatically different stock market reactions," said Rebecca O'Keeffe, head of investment at Interactive Investor, in a note.

"A Hillary Clinton victory is perceived as bringing stability to the market, whereas the uncertainty around a Donald Trump victory is likely to see stocks fall in the short term as investors try to work out which sectors and industries might benefit and which will fall," she said.

Read:These 5 charts show how U.S. election is rattling financial markets (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/these-5-charts-show-how-the-us-election-is-rattling-financial-markets-2016-11-02)

Polls point to a tighter race between the two candidates, with the RealClearPolitics polling average (http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2016/president/us/general_election_trump_vs_clinton-5491.html) showing Democratic nominee Clinton's lead over her Republican rival has narrowed to 1.7 percentage points from more than 7 points two weeks ago.

U.S. stocks traded lower (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/us-stocks-under-pressure-as-tighter-election-race-rattles-investors-2016-11-02), with the S&P 500 index set to post its seventh straight decline in a row. Later on Wednesday, attention turns to the Federal Reserve, which is set to deliver its latest interest rate decision at 2 p.m. Eastern Time, or 6 p.m. London time.

Economic news: In European economic news, the German unemployment rate fell to a record low of 6% in October, beating forecasts.

The final eurozone manufacturing purchasing managers index for October came in at 53.5 (https://www.markiteconomics.com/Survey/PressRelease.mvc/4c1efe8463314bccb50184929c4a8e80), up from a flash estimate of 53.3 and better than the 52.6 recorded in September.

The U.K.'s construction PMI rose to 52.6 in October (https://www.markiteconomics.com/Survey/PressRelease.mvc/03783de4a95f468ebd998ae8b57e33f3) from 52.3 in September, beating forecasts.

Also in the U.K., house-price growth slowed markedly in October (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/uk-home-prices-show-signs-of-cooling-off-2016-11-02), suggesting the market is cooling in the aftermath of the country's vote to leave the European Union.

Oil blues: Energy companies fell in Europe as oil prices dropped to a five-week low (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/oil-prices-retreat-on-expectations-for-a-big-jump-in-us-supply-2016-11-02). The slump came after U.S. data revealed stockpiles jumped by more than 14 million barrels, which is the largest weekly climb on record.

Shares of Tullow Oil PLC (TLW.LN) dropped 5.3%, Subsea 7 SA (SUBC.OS) erased 4.3% and Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSB.LN) (RDSB.LN) fell 2.8%.

Movers: Shares of A.P. Moeller-Maersk AS (MAERSK-B.KO) slumped 7.2% after the shipping and oil giant posted a 43% drop in third-quarter profit (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/maersk-profit-drops-43-missing-forecasts-2016-11-02).

On a more upbeat note, shares of G4S PLC (GFS.LN) jumped 10% after the business services company reported a rise in revenue.

Smurfit Kappa Group PLC (SK3.DB) climbed 5.6% after the packaging company recorded record third-quarter earnings (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/smurfit-kappa-profit-up-on-track-for-2016-growth-2016-11-02).

Shares of Next PLC (NXT.LN) added 3.5% after the clothing retailer said October sales improved significantly (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/retailer-next-sales-fall-narrows-sales-guidance-2016-11-02). However, the company lowered its fiscal 2017 sales guidance, citing difficult trading conditions.

Hugo Boss AG (BOSS.XE) jumped 4.2% after the German fashion house posted earnings ahead of forecasts (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/hugo-boss-profit-falls-but-beats-forecasts-2016-11-02).

Indexes: Germany's DAX 30 index slid 1.5% to 10,370.93, while France's CAC40 index dropped 1.2% to 4,414.67.

The U.K.'s FTSE 100 index gave up 1% to 6,845.42.

The euro traded at $1.1117, up from $1.1057 late Tuesday in New York.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 02, 2016 13:06 ET (17:06 GMT)

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