An unexpected contraction in the U.S. economy in the fourth quarter sent stocks in Europe and the U.S. lower on Wednesday, but helped keep the euro close to a 14-month high on expectations that the U.S. central bank will continue its easy monetary policy. 

The Federal Reserve is expected to maintain asset buying at $85 billion a month when it concludes its meeting later in the day and stick to its commitment to hold interest rates near zero until unemployment falls to at least 6.5 percent from the current 7.8 percent.