Wall Street shot past a fresh set of a milestones on Wednesday as irrepressible investor appetite returned US stocks to their steady stream of record finishes.
Across the Atlantic, however, European equities churned lower as market players took their cue from downbeat sentiment in Asia.
Virtual currency bitcoin dived, falling below $10,000 for the first time in six weeks in what one analyst called a ‘cryptocalypse’ as several digital currencies took a hammering. But bitcoin pared some of its losses in late US trading, to move back above $11,000.
In New York, all three major indices set records, with the blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average ending above 26,000 points for the first time, just eight trading sessions after breaking through the 25,000-point barrier.
Maris Ogg of Tower Bridge Associates told AFP the sustained New York rally was boosted by a ‘confluence of good news,’ including strong company earnings, slashed corporate tax rates, higher worker compensation and new investment.
‘This is a boost for productivity,’ and gave market players greater confidence, she said.
Aviation giant Boeing led the Dow higher on plans for a joint venture while rising oil prices helped lift energy stocks.
But in London, stocks fell ‘as traders opt to lock in profits following the latest rally,’ noted Russ Mould, investment director at online stockbroker AJ Bell.
Adding to the gloom, disappointing earnings eclipsed takeover activity in the British capital. 
Publisher and conference organiser Informa revealed it was in talks to buy rival UBM to create a giant worth more than £9.0 billion ($12.4 billion, 10.1 billion euros).
The deal is aimed at accelerating growth and slashing costs, the companies said in a statement. But investors were unconvinced, sending Informa shares tumbling. 
The FTSE 100 was also punished as poor results from luxury fashion giant Burberry and publisher Pearson sent the two companies’ share prices diving.
Tough times for bitcoin
Bitcoin fell below $10,000 for the first time since early December, following on Tuesday’s 15 percent slump.
The leading cryptocurrency is down from record highs approaching $20,000 in the week before Christmas, having rocketed 25-fold over the year before being hit by concerns about a bubble and worries about crackdowns on trading in it.
‘It’s been a Cryptocalypse overnight with BTC (bitcoin) and other virtual currencies coming under heavy selling pressure,’ said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader.
But Shane Chanel, equities and derivatives adviser at ASR Wealth Advisers, sounded a slightly positive note: ‘Not all hope is lost. The cryptocurrency market is privy to these wild swings and seasoned veterans in this space have seen this happen many times previously.’
In Asia, most markets fell into the red with energy firms rocked by lower oil prices earlier in the week. 
But Hong Kong stocks hit an all-time high to break a record that had been in place for more than 10 years.
Key figures around 2200 GMT New York – DOW: UP 1.3 percent at 26,115.65 (close)
New York – S&P 500: UP 0.9 percent at 2,802.56 (close)
New York – Nasdaq: UP 1.0 percent at 7,298.28 (close)
London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.4 percent at 7,725.43 points (close)
Frankfurt – DAX 30: DOWN 0.5 percent at 13,183.96 (close)
Paris – CAC 40: DOWN 0.4 percent at 5,493.99 (close)
EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.3 percent at 3,612.78 (close)
Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.4 percent at 23,868.34 (close)
Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 0.3 percent at 31,983.41 (close)
Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.2 percent at 3,444.67 (close)
Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.2198 from $1.2259
Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3833 from $1.3794
Dollar/yen: UP at 111.26 yen from 110.53 yen 
Oil – Brent North Sea: UP 23 cents at $69.38 per barrel
Oil – West Texas Intermediate: UP 24 cents at $63.97