European shares retreated from four-year highs on Wednesday, as ambiguity over a US-China trade deal and intensifying unrest in Hong Kong kept investors at bay, while Spanish stocks underperformed as Rome braced for more political uncertainty.
Irish-founded company Tullow Oil had its worst day of trading in 15 years.
The Iseq finished flat on a negative day across European markets. CRH shares closed up 0.9 per cent at €33.69, having earlier touched €33.75, its highest level since May 2017. The stock rallied in afternoon trading on speculation that the building materials giant might put its Philippines cement unit up for sale.
It was a weak day for financial stocks, with Bank of Ireland closing down 3.4 per cent at €4.35 and AIB sliding 3.8 per cent to just below €2.87. AIB has sold €500 million of bonds this week, boosting its prospects of paying a special dividend next year to shareholders.
Real estate investment trust stock Hibernia Reit fell 2.1 per cent to €1.37, compounding a 2 per cent fall in Tuesday's session that came after it warned of softening sentiment.
Insulation-maker Kingspan was stronger, advancing 2.5 per cent to €48.66, while Ryanair nudged up just 0.15 per cent to €13.78.
The FTSE 100 index retreated 0.2 per cent as traders grew weary of mixed trade signals from US president Donald Trump, while mid-caps slid on the back of weak economic data and a plunge in Tullow Oil.
Tullow, founded by Irish businessman Aidan Heavey, plunged 27.3 per cent to 149.65 pence on its main London listing after it warned about the commercial viability of two major oil discoveries in Guyana and reported poor production in Ghana.
The FTSE 250 was down 0.7 per cent overall, its worst day in more than five weeks after data showed UK average weekly earnings rose at a weaker pace in the third quarter.
Blue-chip British Land slipped 3.3 per cent after the real estate firm reported a drop in profit and revenue due to challenging market conditions. But bottler Coca Cola HBC enjoyed its best day since August 2017 as it jumped 6 per cent after reporting a strong quarter despite adverse weather.
Royal Mail climbed as much as 4.7 per cent to a near six-month high after it won a high court injunction to block potential strikes by its largest union.
The pan-European Stoxx 600 index fell 0.2 per cent with trade-sensitive automotive stocks and miners slipping as a much awaited speech by Trump gave scant clues on the progress of a trade deal with China. In Germany, the Dax fell 0.4 per cent, while the French Cac 40 declined 0.2 per cent.
Spanish stocks led losses among regional peers, falling 1.3 per cent, extending a slide after Socialists and far-left Unidas Podemos formed a new coalition on Tuesday in an unexpectedly fast preliminary agreement.
Shares of Danish medical equipment maker Ambu surged 23 per cent due to an early launch of duodenoscope.
Wall Street's main indexes turned slightly higher as Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell said the central bank saw a "sustained expansion" ahead for the US economy. His comments are widely watched as the Fed lowered borrowing costs three times this year to cushion the world's largest economy from a global slowdown.
Shares of Alibaba dropped 2.6 per cent as the Chinese ecommerce giant revealed plans to launch a Hong Kong share sale to raise up to $13.4 billion. SmileDirectClub slumped about 19 per cent as the teeth alignment company posted a bigger quarterly loss and pointed towards more losses for the year.
The Walt Disney Company traded more than 3 per cent higher after it said it had attracted 10 million subscribers on the first day of its Disney+ streaming service. – Additional reporting: Reuters.