European stocks slump, US also lower ahead of Fed decision

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell is widely expected to oversee an interest rate cut on Wednesday, but markets are unsure how big the cut will be

European stock markets slumped on Tuesday on lackluster earnings and economic data, while Wall Street edged lower ahead of a key Federal Reserve decision.

Adding to the angst were comments from US President Donald Trump accusing China of going back on commitments as trade talks resumed in Shanghai.

Frankfurt's benchmark DAX 30 index tumbled by more than two percent, with German airline Lufthansa slumping after weak profits and Bayer dropping on worries about mounting litigation at the company's Monsanto business over weed killer Roundup.

Paris was hurt by figures showing France's economy grew by less than expected in the second quarter.

London stocks also pulled back but outperformed eurozone markets as the weak pound lifted British-based multinationals who sell their goods abroad.

The British pound continued its slide to fresh two-year lows as more investors were betting on a no-deal Brexit, with newly-installed Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government taking shape.

"No one, probably including Boris himself, knows how close he will drive the UK car towards the 31 October cliff edge before applying the brakes -- or, indeed, whether he would stop," said a note from Eurasia Group.

Uncertainty about Brexit and the US-China trade talks add to the factors that the Fed was weighing as it began a two-day monetary policy meeting. The central bank is expected to cut interest rates on Wednesday but investors are not sure how big the cut will be.

- Consumers stay strong -

US consumer confidence in July rebounded strongly as survey respondents reported robust labor and business conditions and increased optimism, according to the Conference Board.

The report coincided with Commerce Department data showing a fifth consecutive monthly increase in personal income, suggesting retail spending should be healthy in the summer.

But analysts said the consumer data and other recent solid figures could complicate the Fed's course.

The better economic data means "the uncertainty surrounding the central bank's future policies has increased," said Gorilla Trades strategist Ken Berman.

Among individual companies, Procter & Gamble led the Dow's gainers, jumping 3.8 percent as it reported that quarterly sales rose 3.6 percent to $17.1 billion, which was better than expected.

The consumer products giant still reported a $5.2 billion quarterly loss following an $8 billion accounting hit on the lower value of the Gillette shaving business.

Pfizer plunged 6.4 percent as its deal announced Monday to merge its off-patent business with Mylan drew negative reviews.

A note on Pfizer from UBS said there was "not much to be excited about" in the deal, while both Morgan Stanley and Bank of America downgraded Pfizer. Mylan gained 3.1 percent.

In after-hours trading, Apple shares rose 2.9 percent after the technology giant reported a 13 percent decline in quarterly profit to $10 billion, but topped analyst expectations due to higher revenues from digital content and services.

- Key figures around 2040 GMT -

New York - Dow: DOWN 0.1 percent at 27,198.02 (close)

New York - S&P 500: DOWN 0.3 percent at 3,013.18 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: DOWN 0.2 percent at 8,273.61 (close)

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.5 percent at 7,646.77 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 2.2 percent at 12,147.24 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 1.6 percent at 5,511.07 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 1.7 percent at 3,462.85 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.4 percent at 21,709.31 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 0.1 percent at 28,146.50 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.4 percent at 2,952.34 (close)

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2151 from $1.2219 at 2100 GMT

Euro/pound: UP at 91.79 pence from 91.21

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1154 from $1.1145

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 108.59 yen from 108.78

Brent North Sea crude: UP 1.6 percent at $64.72 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: UP 2.1 percent at $58.05 per barrel

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