The British pound sank on the news, down to $1.2215 from almost $1.2300 the previous day. Shares on London's FTSE 100, which usually rises when the pound falls due to the many multinationals listed there, declined 0.3% to 7,071. Frankfurt's DAX fell 1.2% to 11,584, while France's CAC 40 was off 1% at 5,330 in midday trading.
Meanwhile, the U.S.-China trade front continues to create uncertainty. With little to no news after President Donald Trump's conflicting comments this week on the status of negotiations, investors are "finding it difficult to put a finger as to where the ongoing U.S.-China trade issue is headed," Jingyi Pan of IG said in a report.
"The saying that we are a tweet (from Trump) away from the next trade escalation between U.S. and China had certainly grown to become the broad view."
Dow and S&P 500 futures were both down about 0.2% before markets opened.
U.S. and Chinese trade negotiators are due to meet next month in Washington, but neither side has given any indication of offering concessions to break a deadlock. A round of talks last month in Shanghai ended with no sign of progress.
Washington and Beijing fueled investor pessimism on Friday with an additional round of tit-for-tat tariff hikes. Their punitive duties on billions of dollars of each other's goods already have battered exporters on both sides and prompted forecasters to cut economic growth outlooks.
"There are no grounds to believe China will concede to a deal based on unilateral, lopsided demands under rising tariffs duress," Mizuho Bank said in a report.
Markets rose after Trump said Monday that Beijing was ready to talk seriously about a worsening tariff war over trade and technology following two weekend phone calls. But investors were left guessing after a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman couldn't confirm any exchange took place. On Tuesday, U.S. stocks declined as investors shifted money from stocks to government bonds, gold and other safe-haven assets.
In Asia, the Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.3% to 2,893.76 and Tokyo's Nikkei 225 advanced 0.1% to 20,479.42. Hong Kong's Hang Seng retreated 0.2% to 25,615.48.
Seoul's Kospi rose 0.9% to 1,941.09 and Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 gained 0.4% to 6,500.60. India's Sensex shed 0.5% to 37,450.81.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude gained 71 cents to $55.64 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.29 on Tuesday to close at $54.93. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 59 cents to $59.62 per barrel in London. It advanced 91 cents the previous session to $59.03.
CURRENCY: The dollar was off slightly at 105.73 yen. The euro also fell slightly to $1.1086.
Ott reported from Washington.