Stocks markets turned lower Wednesday amid concerns about an impasse in the Brexit process, slowing trade and global growth.
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Britain's FTSE 100 declined 0.2 percent to 7,183 as British lawmakers sought ways forward in Brexit after a defeat of Prime Minister Theresa May's proposed plan for leaving the European Union. Germany's DAX fell 0.1 percent to 11,407 while the CAC 40 in France made its way back to flat at 5,306.
Wall Street looked set to open with small losses, as the future contract for the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell about 0.2 percent at 25,608. The Standard & Poor's 500 future was about 0.2 percent lower at 2,817.
Britain's House of Commons was scheduled Wednesday to debate various alternatives for the split from the EU, after which lawmakers will be asked to vote for all of the options they could accept. The most popular ideas will move to a second vote on Monday in hopes of finding one option that can command a majority. Without approval of May's deal, Britain is due to leave the EU on April 12.
Meanwhile, concerns about the global economy saw European Central Bank President Mario Draghi promise to take further action if the outlook takes a sudden turn for the worse. Growth in Europe has been hit by a slowdown in global manufacturing and trade.
Shares in China rose ahead of the resumption of trade talks with the U.S. on Thursday in Beijing, but uncertainty remains over how the world's two biggest economies will resolve their costly trade dispute.
"The ability to strike an economically viable, mutually agreeable, politically acceptable, and commercially enforceable deal within a reasonably quick time will be put to the test," Mizuho Bank said in a commentary. "Without obsessing over every minute detail, suffice to say that optimism over the potential for such a trade deal has been challenged by the ability to get both sides on the same page over a whole range of issues."
The Shanghai Composite rose 0.9 percent to 3,022.72 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.6 percent to 28,728.25. The advances followed a report that industrial profits dropped 14 percent from a year earlier in January-February.
Such indicators of slowing growth in the world's No. 2 economy tend to boost share prices as investors speculate the government may take fresh measures to support growth.
Elsewhere in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 0.2 percent to close at 21,378.73. Australia's S&P ASX 200 edged 0.1 percent higher to 6,136.00. South Korea's Kospi lost 0.2 percent to 2,145.62 and the Sensex in India slipped 0.2 percent to 38,162.10. Shares fell in Taiwan and Southeast Asia.
HEALTH MERGER: Centene will spend more than $15 billion on rival WellCare Health Plans, both big players in the Affordable Care Act market. The deal Wednesday comes two days day after the Trump administration attacked the ACA in court, saying that former President Barack Obama's health care law should be declared unconstitutional. Shares in WellCare jumped more than 12 percent in premarket trading.
ENERGY: U.S. benchmark crude fell 22 cents to $59.72 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained $1.12 on Tuesday to $59.94 per barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, picked up 10 cents to $68.07 per barrel.
CURRENCIES: The dollar weakened to 110.29 Japanese yen from 110.63 yen on Tuesday. The euro rose $1.1275 from $1.1266.
Ott reported from Madrid.