European shares ended a volatile session with modest gains on Tuesday, as investors weighed last-ditch attempts at a Brexit trade deal while closely tracking rising coronavirus cases.
Early positive sentiment on Wall Street also helped lift European stocks out of their sluggish, cautious mid-morning pattern.
The Iseq was in the red for much of the day, but climbed into positive territory near the end of the session to finish about 0.1 per cent higher.
After losses on Monday, there were mixed fortunes for financial stocks, with Bank of Ireland recovering 1.7 per cent to close at €2.91, but AIB slipping 1.1 per cent to €1.60.
Building materials group CRH also provided support to the index, rising 0.8 per cent to €34.17, while packaging giant Smurfit Kappa put in one of the more convincing performances of the day, swelling 3.7 per cent to €38.28.
Ryanair has enjoyed gains in recent weeks, but the airline couldn't add to them on Tuesday, with its share price finishing 1.9 per cent lower at €16.67. Paddy Power and Betfair owner Flutter Entertainment was another faller, dropping 1.9 per cent to €162.00.
The blue-chip FTSE 100, which has been outperforming its European peers in recent sessions, was more or less flat, closing just 0.05 per cent higher on a day when the UK said it would drop clauses in draft domestic legislation that breached the Brexit withdrawal agreement.
Sterling was under pressure as investors awaited more concrete signs of a breakthrough on a trade deal between the EU and the UK. The FTSE 250, which contains more domestically focused companies, closed 0.3 per cent lower.
Aer Lingus owner International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG) was one of the biggest fallers on the London market, dropping 3.6 per cent.
Online shopping company Studio Retail Group, previously known as Findel, announced that it was up for sale, sending its shares soaring 14 per cent at one point, though they finished up 4.9 per cent,
After losing as much as 0.6 per cent in the session, the pan-European Stoxx 600 index closed up 0.2 per cent to hover near nine-month highs.
The travel and leisure sectors, one of the worst-hit by pandemic-induced movement curbs, led declines among sectors, down 1 per cent, while the German Dax edged higher in the last hour of trading.
The ZEW economic research institute’s survey showed German investor sentiment soared more than expected in December on expectations that vaccines will boost the outlook for Europe’s largest economy.
Elsewhere, the French Cac 40 nudged down 0.2 per cent, while Italian and Spanish stocks also slipped.
Swedish wholesaler Beijer Ref was among the biggest gainers on the Stoxx 600, rising 7.3 per cent after private equity group EQT bought a stake in the company for about $1.1 billion.
Sensor specialist AMS plummeted 15.4 per cent after a report on a possible Android sensor-type change.
Stocks wavered as traders awaited news on fresh stimulus, while a surge in coronavirus cases fuelled concern over tougher restrictions.
The S&P 500 was little changed on news that Republican congressional leaders plan to talk with treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows about Covid-19 relief, as a separate bipartisan initiative confronts the same hurdles that held up previous discussions.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose, while the Nasdaq 100 fell after posting its longest winning streak in almost a year. Tesla slumped as the electric car maker plans to raise as much as $5 billion, tapping capital markets for a third time this year.
Pfizer climbed after US regulators gave early indications they may grant emergency-use authorisation to the vaccine it developed with Germany's BioNTech. The UK became the first nation to begin rolling out the Pfizer vaccine on Tuesday.
– Additional reporting: Reuters/Bloomberg