European stocks drifted lower Wednesday as investors trim bets in the region amid multi-year highs and keep a keen eye on political developments in the United States after President Donald Trump fired his FBI Director James Comey.
The region-wide Stoxx Europe 600 Index, the broadest measure of share prices, was marked 0.2% lower in the opening hour of trading Wednesday at 395.1 points, about 0.3% from its 52-week high of 396.24 it reached yesterday. Major benchmarks around the region were also seeing modest pullbacks, with Switzerland's SMI leading the decliners thanks in part to a 1.5% fall for Roche AG (RHHBY) after the drugmaker said its immuno-oncology drug Tecentriq failed a crucial trial.
Britain's FTSE 100 was marked 0.16% lower in the opening hour, weighed down in part by media stocks after ITV plc (ITVPY) , the country's biggest listed free-to-air broadcaster, warned on first half advertizing revenues.
Broader market sentiment, however, was muted thanks in part to yesterday's move by President Trump to fire FBI Direction Comey after he was said to have misstated several facts related to his investigation of Hilary Clinton's use of a private email server.
Comey was also leading an investigation into Russia's alleged influence in the 2016 election and potential ties between Moscow and Trump campaign officials.
A further component to the market's cautious tone was linked to comments from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who told Reuters yesterday that the President's pledge to grow the economy at a 3% clip "is certainly not achievable this year" but could be met once the Administration passes a tax reform bill and trims business regulation.