Oil prices edged up as traders weigh the possibility of a recession against the outlook for demand from China

London (AFP) - European and US stock markets slid on Wednesday as investors braced for key company earnings and economic growth data in the United States.

“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.”

Investors will later track the latest results from electric carmaker Tesla, headed by Twitter owner and billionaire Elon Musk.

That follows this week’s earnings gloom from US corporate titans Microsoft and Johnson & Johnson.

“If Microsoft is anything to go by, we’re in for another bumpy ride,” Erlam noted, pointing to its plans to lay off 10,000 staff and fears the growth of its cloud business may be slowing.

Swissquote analyst Ipek Ozkardeskaya said Tesa was “doing very well… but 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.

Markets will absorb fourth-quarter US economic growth data for the world’s biggest economy on Thursday.

- Smaller Fed rate hike -

Asian equities fluctuated as traders in several countries returned from the Lunar New Year break with recession fears still causing concern.

While markets have enjoyed a strong start to the year as a slowdown in inflation gives central banks room to temper their interest rate hikes, focus is now 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 years of zero-Covid measures.

Data showing a slight improvement in US factory and services activity was unable to settle nerves, with figures still showing the sectors in contraction.

Focus is also turning to next week’s Federal Reserve policy meeting, with speculation growing that it will lift rates by 0.25 percentage points – a smaller hike than in previous decisions.

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

Hong Kong, Shanghai and Taipei remained closed for the Lunar New Year holiday.

- Key figures around 1430 GMT -

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.4 percent at 7,728.94 points

Frankfurt - DAX: DOWN 0.4 percent at 15,040.04

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 0.5 percent at 7,016.56

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.6 percent at 4,127.02

New York - Dow: DOWN 0.8 percent at 33,477.47

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: DOWN at $1.0884 from $1.0887 on Tuesday

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2319 from $1.2334

Euro/pound: UP at 88.35 pence from 88.26 pence

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 129.70 yen from 130.17 yen

Brent North Sea crude: UP 0.1 percent at $86.37 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.3 percentat $80.38 per barrel