LONDRES (Dow Jones)--Les marchés d'actions européens ont clôturé globalement en baisse vendredi, après s'être écartés des points hauts en plusieurs années atteints jeudi, les investisseurs ayant opté pour la prudence avant les élections générales allemandes, qui auront lieu dimanche.
L'indice Stoxx Europe 600 a cédé 0,3% pour clôturer à 314,20 points, ramenant son gain hebdomadaire à 0,9%. L'indice européen de référence avait clôturé jeudi à son plus haut niveau depuis juin 2008, soutenu par l'euphorie déclenchée par la décision de la Réserve fédérale américaine de laisser son programme de rachats d'actifs inchangé, alors qu'une réduction était attendue.
Une réduction du programme pourrait néanmoins être à nouveau envisagée lors de la réunion du comité de politique monétaire de la Fed en octobre, a prévenu vendredi le président de la Réserve fédérale de Saint Louis, James Bullard, sur Bloomberg Television. Ces propos ont pesé sur les valeurs de part et d'autre de l'Atlantique.
En Europe, les investisseurs se sont par ailleurs abstenus de prendre d'importantes positions avant la tenue, dimanche, des élections fédérales en Allemagne. L'une des principales questions concernant ce scrutin consiste à savoir si la coalition actuelle CDU/CSU/FDP d'Angela Merkel sera reconduite, ou si les partis CDU/CSU devront accepter une coalition plus large avec le parti de centre-gauche SPD.
European Stocks Drop ahead of German Election
European stock markets moved lower Friday, retreating from multiyear highs reached a day earlier, as investors opted for the sidelines ahead of the German election over the weekend.
The Stoxx Europe 600 index lost 0.3% to close at 314.20, trimming its weekly gain to 0.9%.
The benchmark closed at the highest level since June 2008 Thursday, spurred by euphoria that the U.S. Federal Reserve abstained from scaling back its asset-purchase program as many analysts had expected. The central bank cited rising mortgage rates and reduced federal spending as headwinds that "could slow the pace of improvement in the economy."
"It was very surprising and disappointing for the longer term view. The markets pushed higher on the back of it, but it will only support short term," said Richard Perry, chief market strategist at Central Markets.
"But medium term there is still room for a correction in this market and once investors start to realize why Bernanke has gone against what he basically said he would do, I think it's going to sink in," he added.
Tapering could, however, be back on the table as soon as next month, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard said on Bloomberg Television Friday. Bullard said the decision not to begin tapering followed weaker economic data and that a small taper could start in October. The comments weighed on stocks in both Europe and the U.S.
Investors in Europe were also wary of placing any big positions ahead of the German federal election on Sunday. One of the main questions is whether the current Angela Merkel-led CDU/CSU/FDP coalition will be re-elected, or if the conservative CDU/CSU will be forced into a broader coalition with the center-left SPD.
"There has been remarkable calm in the run up to the German elections in the Dax and the euro and there seems to be a sense of overconfidence as the markets have ignored the possible negative outcome of the elections," said Ronnie Chopra, head of strategy at Tradenext, said in emailed comments.
"Recent polls show Merkel's popularity declining while support for the center-left Social Democrats has risen. The SPD is keen on further financial regulation and a financial transactions tax which would not be good news for the City and the equity markets," he added.
Germany's DAX 30 index dropped 0.2% to 8,675.73, pulling back from a record close Thursday. On the week, the index rose 2%.
France's CAC 40 index slipped 0.1% to 4,203.66, but ended with a 2.2% weekly gain.
And the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index gave up 0.4% to 6,596.43, trimming its weekly gain to 0.2%.
Banks weighed on the indexes, with shares of Commerzbank AG down 1.2% in Frankfurt, Societe Generale SA off 0.9% in Paris and heavyweight HSBC Holdings PLC 1.4% lower in London.
Shares of Adidas AG gave up 3% in Frankfurt after the sportswear maker lowered its full-year outlook due to the depreciation of several currencies versus the euro.
Shares of RWE AG lost 3.9% after the German utility firm said late Thursday that deteriorated earnings prospects have forced it to cut its dividend for this year and beyond.
On a more upbeat note, shares of J Sainsbury PLC gained 1.4% in London after Citigroup lifted the supermarkets chain to neutral from sell. The analysts said they expect to see stable margins and solid earnings expansion in the second-quarter earnings report.
Shares of Mediaset SpA gained 1.7% to 3.29 euros ($4.45) after Morgan Stanley lifted the target price on the broadcaster controlled by former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to EUR3.65 from EUR2.15.
Write to Sara Sjolin at AskNewswires@dowjones.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
September 20, 2013 12:40 ET (16:40 GMT)
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