NEW YORK ( The Deal) -- European markets were in negative territory Wednesday, as a slowdown in first-quarter euro-area economic growth raised expectations of imminent action by the European Central Bank at Thursday's rate-setting meeting.
In London the FTSE 100 was down 0.34% at 6.812.74, while in Frankfurt the DAX shed 0.48% to 9.872.01. In France the CAC 40 retreated 0.63% to 4,475.54.
In the 18 European countries using the common currency, seasonally adjusted GDP rose by 0.2% in the fourth quarter, down from a 0.3% rise in the previous quarter, according to figures released Wednesday by Eurostat, the EU's statistics office.
The latest data increases pressure on central bankers to step in and do something to combat a protracted period of low inflation that's threatening to derail the region's fragile recovery. Most bets are on a cut of 10 or 15 basis points in the benchmark and deposits rates. However, the ECB may hold off on liquidity injections for a bit -- saving the so-called QE bazooka up its sleeve for later.
The interest rate decision will be announced Thursday afternoon in Frankfurt, followed by a press conference by ECB President Mario Draghi.
In London, shares of Tesco were down after Britain's largest grocery retailer reported its third quarterly sales decline. The stock was down 0.69% at 295.45 pence, recovering somewhat after falling to 292.05 pence.
U.K. comparable sales at Tesco excluding gasoline and value-added tax fell 3.8% in the first quarter of 2014, more than the 3.0% drop in the previous quarter. Investors were also in a selling mood after CEO Philip Clarke said in a conference call that he's not able to promise any improvements in the next few quarters.