Global stocks mostly fell on Thursday as traders awaited news from high-level US-China trade talks in Beijing and Wall Street was hit by bad news in the US retail sector.
London, however, managed to eke out a small closing gain thanks to pound weakness, which boosts earnings of FTSE-listed multinationals with income in other currencies.
US stocks were mostly negative after the Commerce Department reported US retail sales had dropped 1.2 percent in December from the previous month, marking the largest month-to-month decrease since September of 2009.
The report suggested American consumers had held back during a peak holiday shopping season during a time that coincided with a plunge in the stock market.
‘We never like to take one piece of the data and extrapolate, especially if you look at the 35-day long shutdown, tensions on the trade front,’ said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National.
‘If it is a trend and it happens on other reports, then we will take it seriously.’
The biggest loser in the Dow was Coca-Cola, which dived 8.4 percent after unveiling a disappointing 2019 outlook. 
The soda giant cited weakness in several emerging markets, including Turkey, Argentina and parts of Africa.
European indices, which had gained ground earlier, had mostly slipped into the red by the close. 
Shares in Airbus jumped in Paris after the European plane maker said it would stop building its A380 owing to poor demand for the superjumbo.
But it announced net profit had soared 29 percent in 2018 on strong sales of its smaller planes.
Earlier, Asian markets had already dropped as traders reacted to a batch of mixed earnings updates.
David Madden, analyst at CMC Markets UK, said strong Chinese trade data boded well for talks with the United States.
‘That fact that China’s economy is showing some signs of improvement might mean Beijing will be less susceptible to pressure from the US regarding the trade dispute,’ he said.
– ‘Positive signals’ -Negotiators have kicked off discussions in the Chinese capital aimed at defusing a row that has already triggered tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of exports and threatened to stymie global growth.
Failure to resolve the dispute would initiate a sharp hike in US tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods, although US President Donald Trump indicated this week he could extend his March 1 deadline if progress is made.
Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Wednesday that preliminary discussions in Beijing had gone ‘very well.’
Bloomberg also reported the US president was considering a 60-day deadline extension, according to unnamed sources.
‘Based on the positive signals from the US-China trade negotiations, further tariff hikes will likely be suspended,’ noted Louis Kuijs of Oxford Economics, as US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met with Chinese trade envoy Liu He.
China’s trade surplus with the US narrowed in January even as its American imports plunged, buffeted by a slowing economy and the tariff battle with Washington, official data showed Thursday.
The surplus fell to $27.3 billion from $29.9 billion in December. 
– Key figures around 2200 GMT – New York – Dow: DOWN 0.4 percent at 25,439.39 (close)
New York – S&P 500: DOWN 0.3 percent at 2,745.73 (close)
New York – Nasdaq: UP 0.1 percent at 7,426.95 (close)
London – FTSE 100: UP 0.1 percent at 7,197.01 points (close)
Frankfurt – DAX 30: DOWN 0.7 percent at 11,089.79 (close)
Paris – CAC 40: DOWN 0.2 percent at 5,062.52 (close)
EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.6 percent at 3,182.66 (close)
Tokyo – Nikkei 225: FLAT at 21,139.71 (close)
Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 0.2 percent at 28,432.05 (close)
Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.1 percent at 2,719.70 (close)
Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1292 from $1.1270 at 2130 GMT Wednesday
Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2795 from $1.2848
Dollar/yen: DOWN at 110.69 yen from 111.02 yen
Oil – Brent Crude: UP 96 cents at $64.57 per barrel 
Oil – West Texas Intermediate: UP 51 cents at $54.41