European stocks fell solidly lower as the Bank of England said the risk of war in Iraq will stunt economic growth in the region's second-largest economy. Axa, Europe's second-biggest insurer, fell after Standard & Poor's lowered its credit rating.
London's FTSE index was down 53.1 points, or 1.45%, to 3616.10, while Paris' CAC 40 index fell 71.22 points, or 2.51%, to 2770.62. In Frankfurt, the DAX index fell 55.75 points, or 2.12% to 2,571.25.
Royal Philips Electronics, Europe's largest consumer electronics maker, declined after Goldman Sachs slashed its 2003 earnings forecast by a third. Cadbury Schweppes, the world's third-biggest soft-drinks maker, sank after saying it expects to miss its own earnings targets.
In Asia, stocks finished higher. On Wednesday, the Nikkei 225 index gained 179.24 points, or 2.11%, to close at 8664.17. Hong Kong's benchmark Hang Seng climbed 119.99 points, or 1.30%, to 9,314.90.