From Morrison Securities Pty Ltd:
U.S. Stock Markets
U.S. stocks fell as questions about loans to euro-zone banks and some earnings disappointments cut into Tuesday's optimism. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 30 points, or 0.3%, to 12073, the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index eased 2 points, or 0.1%, to 1239 and the Nasdaq Composite lost 39 points, or 1.5%, to 2564.
The declines reversed a premarket gain of 120 points in Dow futures and come a day after the blue-chip index ran up 2.9%, one of its biggest gains of the year.
Pulling the markets lower were technology stocks, after disappointing earnings from database giant Oracle sent the stock sliding. International Business Machines lost 3.7%, Cisco Systems fell 2.9% and Hewlett-Packard shed 2.3%.
Limiting the losses were gains among the so-called "defensive" sectors, as investors sought safety in utilities and consumer-staples stocks. Kraft Foods added 1%, Coca-Cola rose 1.9% and Pfizer gained 0.6%. Energy stocks were also relatively robust, bolstered by strong oil prices.
Exxon Mobil and Chevron each added 1.3%. The moves came after the European Central Bank's longer-term refinancing operation allotted a bigger-than-expected EUR489.19 billion in three-year loans to 523 euro-zone banks in the first of two refinancing operations.
European Stock Markets
European stock markets fell Wednesday as debt worries resurfaced after the European Central Bank's first three-year funding operation for the region's banks drew more interest than expected. Losses for software company SAP AG and drug stocks also weighed.
The Stoxx Europe 600 index fell 0.5% to 237.3. It had added as much as 1.3% in the moments after the results of the ECB funding operation were released, but gains quickly eroded amid signs of more need by Europe's banks than was expected.
The ECB said 523 banks requested EUR489 billion in funding from the central bank in a bid to boost liquidity. Technology stocks were among the losers Wednesday. Shares of German software firm SAP AG tumbled 6% after rival Oracle Corp. disappointed with its earnings report.
The German DAX 30 index fell 0.9% to 5,791.5, with retailer Metro AG off 3.8% amid losses for retailing and food stocks, which made broad gains earlier in the week. Utility E.On AG fell 1.6%. The French CAC 40 index fell 0.8% to 3,030.5. Banking stocks, which gained earlier in the day, reversed course, with heavyweights Societe Generale SA off 3.4% and Credit Agricole SA down 2.1%. The FTSE 100 index fell 0.5% to 5,389.7.
Shares of Lloyds Banking Group PLC bucked losses for the rest of the sector, gaining 5.5% after Exane BNP Paribas upgraded it to outperform from underperform. Energy-related stocks also fell, with BG Group PLC down 1.6% and BP PLC off 1%.
Asia-Pacific Stock Markets
Most Asian stock markets rallied Wednesday as strong economic data in the U.S. and Germany Tuesday abated worries over the global economic outlook, sparking a rally in global markets.
Mainland Chinese stocks surrendered early gains to finish lower on concerns about the nation's slowing economic engine, and as Ping An Insurance Group Co. tumbled on equity-dilution worries after announcing a fund-raising plan.
Trading volumes were thin in several markets ahead of the approaching year-end holidays. Japan's Nikkei Stock Average advanced 1.5% to 8459.98, South Korea's Kospi added 3.1% to 1848.41, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose 1.9% to 18,416.45.
Taiwan's Taiex recorded the region's biggest gains, soaring 4.6% to 6966.48 a day after the government said that it will make use of a fund to restrict stock market losses resulting from sliding global markets.
Shares of Cathay Financial Holding Co. rose by the day's 7.0% limit, while Chinatrust Financial Holding Co. added 6.7%. China's Shanghai Composite rose by as much as 1.0% before staging a retreat in afternoon trading, finishing down 1.1% at 2191.15.
Several resource sector and automobile stocks dropped, with Aluminum Corp. of China Ltd. down 2.7% and SAIC Motor Corp. losing 1.5% in Shanghai. Shares of Ping An tumbled 5.2% after the insurer said Tuesday it plans to raise as much as 26 billion yuan in convertible bonds. In Tokyo, Mazda Motor Co. rose 3.0% while Honda Motor Co. climbed 2.4%; in Seoul, Hyundai Motor Corp. added 2.2%. Among technology firms, Samsung Electronics Co. jumped 4.5% in Seoul and Sony Corp. gained 3.4% in Tokyo.
Base metals closed mixed on the London Metal Exchange Wednesday, as early gains were pared following a tumble in the euro. Flagship three-month copper ended the open outcry session at $7,450 a metric ton, up 0.5% on the day but well below its intraday high of $7,573/ton.
The rest of the complex was mixed, with zinc and aluminum lagging in negative territory. Base metals started the session on a strong footing as the euro moved higher against the dollar, heightening the appeal of the dollar-denominated metals. Crude futures surged Wednesday after a government report showed a giant decline in U.S. oil stockpiles.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration said U.S. crude inventories fell 10.6 million barrels last week, the largest weekly drop in more than a decade.
While crude stocks often fall at the end of the year, the size of the drop surprised analysts, who had expected a 2.4-million-barrel decline.
Light, sweet crude for February delivery surged following the report to trade as high as $99.25 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, before easing back to settle $1.43 higher at $98.67 a barrel.
Gold futures finished lower, pulling back after a nearly $21-an-ounce gain in the previous session, with investors favoring the U.S. dollar over gold after the European Central Bank's loan offer to euro-area banks.
Prices held above $1,600 an ounce, however, as uncertainty around the region's debt crisis and inflation outlook remained. Gold for delivery in February fell $4, or 0.3%, to settle at $1,613.60 an ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.