Wall Street stocks resumed their selloff Wednesday, while European equities advanced despite worries over increased coronavirus cases in the region that are sparking fresh restrictions.
US stocks lost ground after they were unable to stage a second day of gains following Tuesday's advance, which snapped three days in the red.
"The mega caps started weak and there was just no buying support," said Briefing.com analyst Patrick O'Hare.
O'Hare said fresh restrictions in Europe in response to higher coronavirus cases raised worries about a similar dynamic in the United States.
Investors are also disappointed that Washington lawmakers haven't reached an agreement on more stimulus and uneasy over speculation that the US presidential election could drag on due to slow vote counts or legal challenges, he said.
The Business Roundtable on Wednesday joined a chorus of groups and lawmakers calling for more stimulus spending, saying the failure to act risks "long-term damage" to the US economy.
Among the major indices, the Nasdaq was the most hard-hit, losing three percent.
As European markets closed, London's benchmark FTSE 100 shares index was 1.2 percent higher, well off its intraday high.
In the eurozone, Frankfurt's DAX 30 gained 0.4 percent while the Paris CAC 40 added 0.6 percent.
Business activity in the eurozone and Britain stagnated in September as a summer recovery faltered owing to rising cases of the coronavirus, IHS Markit said.
For the euro-currency bloc, the purchasing manager's index (PMI) fell to 50.1 points from 51.9 points in August, barely above the 50-point level that indicates growth.
The UK level dropped to 55.7 from 59.1.
"PMIs underline the fragility of the recovery," said Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com.
Markets are jittery over an uptick in coronavirus cases that prompted Marseille, France's second-biggest city, to close bars and restaurants.
With more than 13,000 new cases reported and almost 800 hospital admissions on Thursday alone, French Health Minister Olivier Veran ordered bars and restaurants closed in the Mediterranean port city, now the only part of mainland France at "maximum alert."
One level down on a new sliding scale of infection control measures, at "elevated alert", eight major cities including Paris will see new restrictions, including limitations on public gatherings to 10 people and earlier closing hours for bars.
The numbers are "continuing to worsen" but there is "still time to act", Veran said.
- Key figures around 2115 GMT -
New York - Dow Jones: DOWN 1.9 percent at 26,763.13 (close)
New York - S&P 500: DOWN 2.4 percent at 3,236.92 (close)
New York - Nasdaq: DOWN 3.0 percent at 10,632.99 (close)
London - FTSE 100: UP 1.2 percent at 5,899.26 points (close)
Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 0.4 percent at 12,775.95 (close)
Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.6 percent at 4,802.26 (close)
EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.5 percent at 3,180.11 (close)
Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.1 percent at 23,346.49 (close)
Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 0.1 percent at 23,742.51 (close)
Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.2 percent at 3,279.71 (close)
Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1660 from $1.1708 at 2100 GMT
Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2722 from $1.2733
Euro/pound: DOWN at 91.62 pence from 91.95 pence
Dollar/yen: UP at 105.39 yen from 104.93 yen
West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.3 percent at $39.93 per barrel
Brent North Sea crude: UP 0.1 percent at $41.77 per barrel