World stock markets marked time Wednesday, with the coronavirus' economic impact and fresh outbreaks in some countries weighing on investors' minds, while hope sprung from hints it is easing elsewhere and that a vaccine could arrive soon.
Oil prices continued to test five-month highs with North American producers bracing for the arrival within hours of Hurricane Laura in the US Gulf Coast region.
Around three million barrels per day of refining capacity have been closed after US authorities said the hurricane could bring "potentially catastrophic storm surges, extreme winds and flash flooding."
Futures prices for US benchmark West Texas Intermediate traded in a tight range and dipped ahead of mid-session gains to break above $43.60 -- a rise of half a percent -- before slipping back slightly.
"Investors’ insatiable appetite for risk has continued so far this week, with major US indices hitting new record highs and crude oil prices rallying to their best levels since the pandemic," said ThinkMarkets analyst Fawad Razaqzada.
Wall Street was almost unchanged two hours in, while London and Paris made the most meagre of gains, not least over concern at the lingering presence of the coronavirus, although Frankfurt added 1.0 percent.
"Second wave fears are becoming more real in Europe as a number of countries, particularly tourist destinations such as Spain and France, are seeing a strong rise in COVID-19 cases," said City Index analyst Fiona Cincotta.
"Governments... are showing reluctance to slap nationwide lockdowns into place just yet but investor concerns are growing."
Attention is now turning towards a virtual meeting of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, with the key event a Thursday speech by US Federal Reserve chief Jerome Powell.
"It remained a mixed, uninspired session on Wednesday, investors choosing to sit on their hands ahead of the Jackson Hole Symposium in the second half of the week," noted Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell, though Oanda's Craig Erlam forecast policymakers may have little more to offer in their armoury and could "disappoint."
Most markets had wobbled Tuesday as fading US consumer confidence undermined news that China and the United States would stick with a trade pact agreed earlier this year, although Wall Street booked a three-day string of record closes.
While there are signs that COVID-19 is levelling off in the US, other countries are fighting to subdue new flare-ups, with Spain notably saying Tuesday it would call in the army and South Korea again closing schools and kindergartens in the greater Seoul region.
Observers warned the upcoming winter could see more infections as people are forced to stay indoors.
"The situation is still far better than it was in the spring," said AxiCorp analyst Stephen Innes.
"However, recent momentum and outbreaks around the world are worrying, as second- and third-wave coronavirus outbreaks still pose the most significant threat to the economic recovery."
Key figures around 1545 GMT -
New York - Dow: FLAT at 28,235.97
London - FTSE 100: UP 0.1 percent at 6,045.60 points (close)
Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 1.0 percent at 13,190.15 (close)
Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.8 percent at 5,048.43 (close)
EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.8 percent at 3,356.33
Tokyo - Nikkei 225: FLAT at 23,290.86 (close)
Hong Kong - Hang Seng: FLAT at 25,491.79 (close)
Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 1.3 percent at 3,329.74 (close)
Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1825 from $1.1835 at 2100 GMT on Tuesday
Dollar/yen: DOWN at 106.11 yen from 106.39 yen
Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3192 from $1.3152
Euro/pound: DOWN at 89.63 pence from 89.99 pence
Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.1 percent at $45.79 per barrel
West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.2 percent at $43.45