US stocks pressured by weak oil shares

Theresa May's call for an early British election has caused market volatility

Weakness in petroleum-linked shares pressured US stocks Wednesday, while London equities retreated again following the surprise announcement of a snap general election.

Oil prices fell nearly four percent following a build in US gasoline inventories that suggested weak demand ahead of the peak summer driving season. That resulted in sharp declines for petroleum producers such as Chevron and oil-services companies like Halliburton, which lost one percent or more.

In London the FTSE 100 shed 0.5 percent as British lawmakers overwhelmingly backed Prime minister Theresa May's surprise call Tuesday to hold a snap election on June 8, before the country enters grueling Brexit negotiations with the European Union.

Equity markets were also cautiously preparing for the first round of the French election, which has implications for the future of the eurozone.

"Investors continue to be challenged by an ever-rising wall of worry cemented by geo-political and domestic concerns," said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA.

The pound retreated somewhat after posting solid gains on Tuesday on the election announcement, which was seen as strengthening the chance Britain would be able to negotiate a more favorable exit from the EU if May prevails.

Among individual companies, IBM slumped 4.9 percent as it reported a 13 percent drop in first-quarter profit to $1.8 billion and suffered its 20th straight quarter of year-over-year revenue declines.

Twenty-First Century Fox fell 0.8 percent as Fox News severed its relationship with Bill O'Reilly, dumping America's most-watched cable news anchor after a flood of sexual-harassment allegations and an advertiser boycott.

Toshiba jumped 4.9 percent after Japan's Nikkei business daily reported the loss-hit industrial giant plans to spin off infrastructure and other major operations into separate companies to quicken management decisions.

Separately, broadcaster NTV, citing an internal document sent by the firm's president, reported that Toshiba was considering laying off some 1,000 employees.

According to the Asahi newspaper, Japan's industry ministry is considering having government-backed firms make a joint bid for Toshiba's memory chip business with US semiconductor company Broadcom, amid concerns about the sensitive technology going abroad.

- Key figures at 2100 GMT -

New York - Dow: DOWN 0.6 percent at 20,404.49 (close)

New York - S&P 500: DOWN 0.2 percent at 2,338.17 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: UP 0.2 percent at 5,863.03 (close)

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.5 percent at 7,114.36 points (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 0.1 percent at 12,016.45 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.3 percent at 5,003.73 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.4 percent at 3,423.82

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.1 percent at 18,432.20 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 0.4 percent at 23,825.88 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.8 percent at 3,170.69 (close)

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2772 from $1.2840

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0708 from $1.0732

Dollar/yen: UP at 108.85 from $108.45 yen

Oil - Brent North Sea: DOWN $1.96 at $52.93 per barrel

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: DOWN $1.97 at $50.44 per barrel