Wall Street stocks and oil prices slipped on Wednesday as a disappointing private US jobs report and the surging Delta variant of the coronavirus weighed on investor sentiment.

European stock markets closed higher but the Dow fell after a report showed that hiring by American firms had been far weaker than expected in July.

US private hiring slowed to 330,000 last month, with dramatically lower gains in the construction and leisure and hospitality sectors, according to payroll services firm ADP.

"The big miss with the ADP raised concerns that the Delta variant is having a bigger impact on the economy," said OANDA senior market analyst Edward Moya.

"The labor market recovery is extremely uneven and suggests the economy continues to struggle in matching individuals up with the current job vacancies," Moya said.

The disappointing data came ahead of Friday's much-anticipated government employment report, which is expected to show a gain of as much as a million jobs.

The weak hiring data offset a survey from the Institute for Supply Management showing service sector activity hitting an all-time high in July as businesses continued to fully reopen.

Crude oil prices fell by more than two percent as the market frets over concerns that crude demand in China could tumble as a result of the tough new lockdown measures.

A surprise increase in US crude stockpiles also influenced oil prices.

"The fact that the Delta variant of the coronavirus is spreading fast is increasingly worrying, as the latest news alters the prospects of economic recovery, especially if governments decide to move toward stricter lockdown measures to break the transmission chains," said Ipek Ozkardeskaya, senior analyst at online bank Swissquote.

The main worry surrounds the world's second biggest economy China, where millions of people have been put into lockdown.

The country had brought domestic cases of the coronavirus down to virtually zero after the disease first emerged in Wuhan in late 2019, but it is now facing its worst outbreak in months.

"While China's resolve to control outbreaks has been well illustrated, markets will continue to watch the outbreak given the high transmissibility of the Delta variant," said National Australia Bank's Tapas Strickland.

Despite Delta variant concerns, observers remain confident the rollout of Covid vaccines means the world will not return to the strict lockdowns seen last year
Despite Delta variant concerns, observers remain confident the rollout of Covid vaccines means the world will not return to the strict lockdowns seen last year AFP / Apu GOMES

New York - Dow: DOWN 0.9 percent at 34,792.67 (close)

New York - S&P 500: DOWN 0.5 percent at 4,402.66 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: UP 0.1 percent at 14,780.53 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.3 percent at 7,123.86 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 0.9 percent at 15,692.13 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.3 percent at 6,746.23 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.7 percent at 4,144.90 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.2 percent at 27,584.08 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: UP 0.9 percent at 26,426.55 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.9 percent at 3,477.22 (close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1841 from $1.1864 at 2100 GMT

Euro/pound: DOWN at 85.21 pence from 85.25 pence

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3891 from $1.3916

Dollar/yen: UP at 109.48 yen from 109.04 yen

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 2.8 percent at $70.38 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 3.4 percent at $68.15 per barrel