European stocks fall amid Spain crisis; Dow ekes out record

European markets are jittery over the escalating political crisis over Catalonia's bid for independence from Spain

Global stock markets were pressured Thursday as a weeks-long rally on Wall Street showed signs of fatigue, while worries about the Catalan political crisis hit European bourses.

Markets in London, Paris and Frankfurt - along with Madrid - all fell as Spain said it will start seizing some of the Catalan regional government's powers after the region's leader warned he could declare independence.

US markets were also in the red most of the day, but the Dow and S&P 500 eked out tiny gains at the close, adding modestly to records struck the day earlier. The Nasdaq, however, dropped behind weakness in Apple, Tesla Motors and other tech-rich names.

US stocks have been on a nearly unbroken push higher since early September. Some analysts viewed a pause as inevitable.

"One can find news triggers to rationalize the selling, but what's happening this morning isn't anything more than a mechanical act of some overdue selling," said analyst Patrick O'Hare.

The Madrid stock exchange underperformed its European peers, as banking stocks dropped sharply, but weakness also extended into the industrial sector.

More than 800 companies have moved their legal headquarters out of Catalonia, citing the risk of instability. The national government has cut its growth forecast for next year to 2.3 percent, from 2.6 percent, blaming the current crisis.

Traders were looking also to Brussels, as EU President Donald Tusk warned Britain not to expect any breakthrough in Brexit negotiations at a European summit starting Thursday, saying London needed to come up with more concrete proposals.

Leaders of the other 27 EU members meeting in Brussels through to Friday are set to postpone until at least December a decision on whether enough progress has been made in talks to move on to discussing Britain and the EU's future relationship.

More cracks have been appearing in Britain's economy, and data Thursday showed that retail sales fell more than expected in September, against a backdrop of rising inflation largely caused by a Brexit-hit pound.

Elsewhere, Tokyo was buoyed by a weaker yen and expectations for a clear election win for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday.

Tokyo closed up 0.4 percent at a 21-year high -- and a 13th straight gain that marks its best run in 30 years.

Shanghai slipped, however, after data showed China's economic growth moderating.

- Key figures around 2100 GMT -

New York - DOW: UP less than 0.1 percent at 23,163.04 (close)

New York - S&P 500: UP less than 0.1 percent at 2,562.10 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: DOWN 0.4 percent at 6,605.07 (close)

Madrid - IBEX 35: DOWN 0.7 percent at 10,197.5 points (close)

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.3 percent at 7,523.04 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 0.4 percent at 12,990.10 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 0.3 percent at 5,368.29 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.5 percent at 3,602.08

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.4 percent at 21,448.52 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 1.9 percent at 28,159.09 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.3 percent at 3,370.17 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1854 from $1.1790 at 2100 GMT

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3153 from $1.3204

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 112.56 yen from 112.93 yen

Oil - Brent North Sea: DOWN 92 cent at $57.23 per barrel

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 75 cents at $51.29 per barrel