Stocks slip before US economic updates and on earnings worries

There was earnings gloom from US corporate titan Microsoft

New York (AFP) - European and US stock markets slid on Wednesday as investors reacted to underwhelming company earnings and braced for economic growth data in the United States.

Frankfurt, Paris and London closed in the red and Wall Street mostly retreated, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq index shedding 0.2 percent.

"Equity markets are back in the red as investors appear to prepare themselves for a disappointing earnings season for big tech," said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at trading platform OANDA.

"Layoffs, missed headline numbers and downbeat forecasts are quickly becoming the norm," he said.

Investors are also tracking the latest results after the bell from electric carmaker Tesla, headed by Twitter owner and billionaire Elon Musk.

That follows earlier earnings gloom from US corporate titans Microsoft and Johnson & Johnson, while aviation giant Boeing on Wednesday reported a quarterly loss on revenues that fell short of analyst estimates.

In tech, Microsoft offered a disappointing outlook on its Azure cloud computing business, after recently announcing plans to lay off 10,000 staff.

The Azure forecast "laid bare an understanding that growth is slowing and that business conditions have gotten more challenging", said analyst Patrick O'Hare.

"Investors are grappling with valuation concerns and the notion that the market might have gotten ahead of itself with the January rally effort," he added.

Tom Cahill of Ventura Wealth Management said it was likely that "investors have been caught off-guard at the speed at which stocks have risen" entering into the new year.

"Some are pulling back a little bit because of concerns over earnings, and in particular Microsoft," he said.

After US markets closed, Tesla reported another round of quarterly profits Wednesday while confirming its long-term production outlook -- despite concerns over rising competition and macroeconomic challenges.

While Tesla is "doing very well," Swissquote analyst Ipek Ozkardeskaya warned that "record deliveries weren't enough to meet the market expectations over the past three quarters."

"And unfortunately, the expectations make the market price," she said.

Meanwhile, investors are eyeing fourth-quarter US economic growth data due on Thursday.

Smaller Fed rate hike?

Markets have enjoyed a strong start to the year as a slowdown in inflation gives central banks room to temper their interest rate hikes. 

Now however, the focus is turning to the economic impact of last year's increases.

Worries about the growth outlook, and the impact of higher rates on company profits, are also offsetting optimism over China's reopening from nearly three years of zero-Covid measures.

Traders are soon turning their attention to next week's Federal Reserve policy meeting, with speculation growing that the US central bank will lift rates by 0.25 percentage points -- a smaller hike than before.

"Markets may have to get used to the idea of headline interest rates staying at current levels for much longer than is currently being priced," said CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson.

Oil prices were near-flat as traders weighed the prospects of recession against the outlook for demand from China as it emerges from its zero-Covid policy.

Key figures around 2130 GMT

New York - Dow: UP less than 0.1 percent at 33,743.84 (close)

New York - S&P 500: DOWN less than 0.1 percent at 4,016.22 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: DOWN 0.2 percent at 11,313.357 (close)

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.2 percent at 7,744.87 points (close)

Frankfurt - DAX: DOWN 0.1 percent at 15,081.64 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 0.1 percent at 7,043.88 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.1 percent at 4,148.11 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.4 percent at 27,395.01 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: Closed for a holiday

Shanghai - Composite: Closed for a holiday

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0921 from $1.0889 on Tuesday

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2403 from $1.2337

Euro/pound: DOWN at 88.02 pence from 88.23 pence

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 129.57 yen from 130.17 yen

Brent North Sea crude: FLAT at $86.12 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: FLAT at $80.15 per barrel

© Agence France-Presse