Germany's DAX lost 0.5% to 12,040.23. In France, the CAC 40 shed 0.2% to 5,488.65. Britain's FTSE 100 declined 0.4% to 7,138.61. Wall Street looked set for early losses, with the future contract for the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 0.4% and that for the S&P 500 off 0.3%.
A day after escalating trade tensions led to a sharp sell-off on Wall Street, investors drew encouragement from reports that Beijing signaled it is open to a partial deal. But a report by the Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post saying that preliminary talks for the meetings did not go well doused some of that enthusiasm.
In Asia, Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 added 0.5% to finish at 21,551.98. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was flat at 6,547.10, while South Korea's Kospi lost 0.9% to 2,028.15. India's Sensex skidded 0.7% to 37,890.59.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng picked up 0.1% to 25,702.91, while the Shanghai Composite rose 0.8% to 25,702.91. "Updates on U.S.-China trade keep their grip on markets as we await the commencement of trade talks going into Thursday," says Jingyi Pan, market strategist at IG in Singapore.
The trade war between the U.S. and China has dragged on for 15 months, inflicting economic damage on both countries. The two sides have raised import duties on billions of dollars of each other's goods, fueling fears their dispute might tip the global economy into recession.
Washington and Beijing recently had held off from further escalating the conflict up until this week, when the U.S. blacklisted a group of Chinese technology companies over alleged human rights violations.
All told, the Trump administration has imposed tariffs on more than $360 billion worth of Chinese goods and plans to tax an additional $160 billion of imports on Dec. 15. This would extend U.S. tariffs to just about everything China ships to the United States. China has counterpunched by taxing $120 billion in U.S. exports, notably soybeans and other farm goods.
ENERGY: Benchmark crude oil fell 26 cents to $52.33 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It fell 4 cents to $52.59 a barrel Wednesday. Brent crude oil, the international standard, lost 21 cents to $58.11 a barrel.
CURRENCIES: The dollar slipped to 107.38 Japanese yen from 107.46 yen. The euro rose to $1.1019 from $1.0989 on Wednesday.