Global stocks and commodities fell Wednesday, after first posting big gains, as investors shrugged off heavy European Central Bank lending and eyed a troublesome U.S. earnings report.
Gold, which had been up about 1 percent in overnight trading, dropped back below its 200-day moving average, and silver slipped below the psychologically important $30 per troy ounce level.
The ECB made $644 billion in three-year, low-interest loans to struggling eurozone banks, a far greater amount than observers had expected the banks to take. The hope is those banks will buy Spanish and Italian government bonds, which carry near-record high interest rates, and thus ease sovereign debt crisis fears.
However, banks could also use the low-cost loans to strengthen their balance sheets, something they must do by next year.
Once the size of the lending was disclosed, market sentiment reversed course on doubts that the borrowing would ease the continent's liquidity crisis.
It's another slight shrug of the shoulders, Richard Hunter, the London-based head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown Plc, told Bloomberg. The underlying story hasn't changed with Europe's debt crisis. The hope is that this money finds its way back into sovereign debt in the new year.
Investors appeared more concerned with U.S. developments.
California-based Oracle Corp., the third-largest software maker, reported disappointing earnings for the quarter ending in November. Shares plunged in European trading as investors took the news as a possible harbinger of trouble in the tech sector.
U.S. lawmakers, many of whom have already left Washington, D.C., have yet to find a way to stop taxpayers from having to start paying more to the federal government next month. Furthermore, unemployment benefits are about to run out for millions of Americans and physicians will see their Medicare reimbursements slashed.
In Asia, stocks closed higher. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 was up 1.5 percent, Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 1.9 percent and Singapore' Straits Times surged 2.3 percent.
But European equities, which had been upovernight, fell. The euro, which had risen above $1.31, fell against the dollar, which began rising against a basket of major rivals.
Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the Nasdaq 100 and the S&P 500 turned lower, indicating a weaker opening to the day's trading.
Crude oil in the U.S. rose to near $98 per 42-gallon barrel on news of tightening U.S. supplies, and copper traded in London rose to $7,512 per metric ton.
Gold for February delivery was off $2.70 to $1,614.90, while spot gold declined $9.60 to $1,615.58.
Silver for March delivery fell 18 cents to $29.36, while spot silver slipped 14 cents to $29.44.