Global stocks were mixed Wednesday as rising tensions between the United States and China offset optimism about progress towards a coronavirus vaccine.
Most leading bourses in Europe and Asia fell as the United State's decision to close a Chinese consulate in Houston rattled investors made anxious by escalating hostilities between the superpowers at odds over the coronavirus and Beijing's crackdown in Hong Kong.
But Wall Street finished a choppy session higher, applauding an announcement by German firm BioNTech and Pfizer that the US government had agreed to pay almost $2 billion for 100 million doses of a potential coronavirus vaccine if regulatory approval is granted.
The progress towards a vaccine has offset worries about spiking US coronavirus cases, though analysts caution it could take more time than the market expects to widely distribute the antidote.
Goldman Sachs Chief Executive David Solomon warned the outlook was "very uncertain" due to the unknowable trajectory of the pandemic.
"I think you'll see poorer economic numbers," Solomon said during an interview with the Economic Club of New York. "We're in for a bumpy ride as we look forward."
A note from DataTrek research based on cellphone geolocation data showed flattening activity at restaurants, bars and cafes as the outbreak has worsened in recent weeks in much of the US.
"We are in the middle of vacation season, but the service economy is not reaping the same benefits as prior years as people travel and go out less due to shutdown constraints or concerns about the virus," DataTrek said.
- Euro gains again -
Analysts said European investors were perturbed by downcast remarks from US President Donald Trump that the coronavirus "will probably, unfortunately, get worse before it gets better."
As European markets closed, London stocks had given up 1.0 percent, Paris had lost 1.3 percent and Frankfurt had shed 0.5 percent.
"European markets (are) scared by Donald Trump's claim," Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell noted.
"After all, if Trump has now dropped his long-held stance that everything is okay, then it is probably time to really be concerned."
But while stocks fell, the euro continued to climb against the dollar, gaining further on momentum after EU leaders clinched a 750 billion euro relief package.
The spike in China-US tensions, expectations that interest rates will remain low for some time and ongoing COVID-19 uncertainty have also led traders into gold.
The precious metal -- which is considered a safe bet in times of economic and geopolitical turmoil -- sat just above $1,864 an ounce on Wednesday and is approaching its record high above $1,900.
- Key figures around 2030 GMT -
New York - Dow: UP 0.6 percent at 27,005.84 (close)
New York - S&P 500: UP 0.6 percent at 3,276.02 (close)
New York - Nasdaq: UP 0.2 percent at 10,706.13 (close)
London - FTSE 100: DOWN 1.0 percent at 6,207.10 (close)
Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 0.5 percent at 13,104.25 (close)
Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 1.3 percent at 5,037.12 (close)
EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 1.0 percent at 3,370.76 (close)
Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.6 percent at 22,751.61 (close)
Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 2.2 percent at 25,057.94 (close)
Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.4 percent at 3,333.16 (close)
West Texas Intermediate: DOWN less than 0.1 percent at $41.90 per barrel
Brent North Sea crude: DOWN less than 0.1 percent at $44.29 per barrel
Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1572 from $1.1527 at 2100 GMT
Dollar/yen: UP at 107.16 yen from 106.80 yen
Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2740 from $1.2731
Euro/pound: UP at 90.83 pence from 90.54