European shares pared their losses Wednesday, following similar declines in Asia, but benchmarks remain in the red as global investors retreated from risky assets in the wake of U.S. election polls showing Republican candidate Donald Trump in a virtual dead heat with his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
Britain's FTSE 100 dropped around 0.25%, giving back around 18 points from Tuesday's close to trade at 6885 points. Europe's Stoxx 600 index, the region's broadest measure of equity performance, slipped by around 0.8% to its lowest level since July before paring that decline to about 0.6%, although markets are still on track for an eighth consecutive session of declines. Benchmarks in France and Germany were also down around 0.5% and 0.7% by mid-morning in London.
One of the region's biggest upside movers in the session in Next (NXGPY , the U.K.-based clothing retailer, which reported a sharp 3.5% fall in third-quarter sales but nonetheless saw its shares rise 4% to the top of the FTSE 100 leaderboard after it confirmed a 52 pence per share dividend.
On the downside, shares in AP Moeller-Maersk (AMKBY fell more than 8% to the lowest levels since mid August, after reporting a weaker-than-expected third quarter.
Maersk, whose container shipping business is the largest in the world, was hit hard by overcapacity, resulting in a 43% decline in third-quarter profit. Container freight rates fell 16% in the quarter compared with the same time frame last year.
Markets around the world have pulled back in recent days as voter surveys continue to suggest that Trump has gained significant traction against his rival since the Federal Bureau of Investigation opted to re-open its probe into Clinton's use of a private email server when she was Secretary of State.
The latest ABC/Washington Post tracker poll has Trump holding a one point lead over Clinton in surveys that include support for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and Green party candidate Jill Stein. In the same survey that tracks only head-to-head figures, however, Clinton continues to hold on to a narrow 1 point lead.
The electoral developments have not only pared recent equity market gains, but have also pushed investors into safer, liquid assets such as the yen and the Swiss franc, with corresponding declines for the U.S. dollar in overnight trading. The dollar index was quoted at two-week low of 97.45, down around 0.3% from Tuesday's New York close.
Equity markets is Asia also fell Wednesday ahead of the U.S. Federal Reserve's regular interest rate decision later in the session. While there is no expectation of a policy change in today's call, traders have trimmed their forecast for a rate cut in the December meeting by around 3 basis points, with markets now pricing in 68% odds for a hike in the final month of the year.
U.S. futures were also down, with the Dow Jones down 0.27%, S&P 500 mini futures 0.29% lower and Nasdaq 100 futures off 0.26%. The Fed is seen unlikely to change rates Wednesday afternoon, when it will deliver its verdict.