Stock markets across the world trod water Wednesday, consolidating this week’s losses as investors took profits and Europe wearily eyed Brexit developments.
Hong Kong and Tokyo spearheaded an Asian market plunge, with technology and energy firms the biggest losers.
Europe meanwhile tripped out of the gates, but the continent’s markets came off lows late in the session as Wall Street wiped out its opening losses to post small gains approaching midday in New York.
‘US stocks are ticking higher after faltering for two days, though Asia fell and Europe is mostly lower amid a pullback in the global markets on the assessment of this year’s strong rally,’ said analysts at Charles Schwab.
A global equity rally hit the buffers this week as the US probe into Russia’s alleged election meddling sowed uncertainty.
Taxing times
Additionally, traders remain cautious about Washington’s ability to push through tax cuts, with thorny negotiations still to come.
‘Tax reform remains in focus as it is expected to begin the likely competitive reconciliation process,’ Charles Schwab said.
The pound retreated with British-EU talks in limbo, one day after the government’s coalition partner dismissed Prime Minister Theresa May’s position on the future of Northern Ireland’s border with eurozone member Ireland.
But the weaker currency helped lift the London stock market into slightly positive territory at the closing bell.
May on Wednesday told parliament that ‘we will ensure that there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland’.
May is expected in Brussels again this week to try to get an agreement that would let her move the talks on to trade at an EU summit in mid-December.
Another key drag was sliding copper prices, which hammered the mining sector, while there were worries about China’s crackdown on borrowing-fuelled investments.
Oil prices were hit by data showing a big rise in US crude inventories, which tends to signal weaker demand.
Elsewhere, bitcoin hit another record high, breaching $12,500, as the cryptocurrency continues to attract speculative interest from investors, having risen 15-fold since mid-January.
Eyes are also on Washington, where lawmakers must agree a fresh budget by Friday to avoid a painful government shutdown, the same day that key US jobs data are released.
Key figures around 1635 GMT
London – FTSE 100: UP 0.3 percent at 7,348.03 points (close)
Frankfurt – DAX 30: DOWN 0.4 percent at 12,998.85 (close)
Paris – CAC 40: FLAT at 5,374.35 (close)
EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.3 percent at 3,561.09
New York – DOW: UP 0.1 percent at 24,199.02
Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 2.0 percent at 22,177.04 (close)
Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 2.1 percent at 28,224.80 (close)
Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.3 percent at 3,293.96 (close)
Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1783 from $1.1828 at 2200 GMT
Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3387 from $1.3442
Dollar/yen: DOWN at 112.29 yen from 112.58 yen
Oil – Brent North Sea: DOWN $1.28 at $61.58 per barrel
Oil – West Texas Intermediate: DOWN $1.30 at $56.32