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LONDON, March 22 (Reuters) - Concerns around trade tariffs sent European shares tumbling to a two-week low on Thursday as the U.S. prepared to announce hefty tariffs on Chinese imports.
U.S. President Trump is expected to sign a presidential memorandum on tariffs targeting $60 billion of Chinese imports, at 1630 GMT.
Investors were also eyeing a European Council meeting, with the European Union aiming to secure an exemption from U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminium imports set to come into force on Friday.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index was down 0.4 percent by 0825 GMT, while Germany’s exporter- and industrials-heavy DAX fell 0.5 percent.
Tech stocks were the worst hit, down 1 percent as tariffs on China were expected to target the high-tech sector.
Investors were also awaiting the Bank of England’s rate decision and policy meeting after the U.S. Fed surprised market watchers with less hawkish rate guidance.
Bank stocks, which benefit from a stronger pace of rate hikes, slipped, with HSBC, ING and UBS among top fallers
Earnings and merger developments continued to drive European stocks.
Reckitt Benckiser shares shone, jumping 6 percent after the British consumer products firm pulled out of the bidding for Pfizer’s consumer health unit. The move reflected relief in the market that Reckitt would avoid over-levering or issuing shares for the acquisition.
GlaxoSmithKline, now seen as having a better chance of buying the Pfizer business, declined 1 percent.
The world’s no.2 cement maker Heidelberg Cement fell 1.8 percent, one of the worst declines on the DAX, after its payout fell slightly short of analysts’ average expectations.
United Internet dropped 8.2 percent to the bottom of the STOXX after its 2017 results. It was the worst-performing tech stock.
Shares in Svenska Handelsbanken tumbled 8.5 percent as it traded ex-dividend. (Reporting by Helen Reid, Editing by Kit Rees)