Wall Street stocks slid on Friday despite banks beating expectations at the start of earnings season as oil and gold prices shot up amid worries about the conflict in the Middle East widening.

"Geopolitical worries have triggered some risk aversion, but worries about a growth slowdown have presumably triggered some residual angst about corporate earnings not living up to expectations," said Briefing.com analyst Patrick O'Hare.

Oil prices were up more than two percent as regional tensions soared after Iran threatened reprisals over a strike in Syria this month that killed two Iranian generals.

Gold also benefitted from its status as a haven investment, breaking the $2,400 per ounce level.

Investor attention was set to focus on the start Friday of the corporate earnings season after economic data released earlier this week largely killed off the possibility that the US Federal Reserve could begin cutting interest rates in June.

Equity markets took the recalibration of expectations of interest rate cuts in their stride as the data showing the US economy in strong health raised hopes that companies will report strong earnings.

At the start of the year markets had priced in six interest cuts by the Fed in 2024, but now expect only two.

JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Citigroup all reported better-than-expected earnings results for the first quarter. But shares in JPMorgan Chase, which have risen strongly this year, fell by more than four percent after trading got under way in New York.

Shares in Wells Fargo and Citigroup rose modestly.

Wall Street's main indices fell at the opening bell.

Eurozone stock markets mostly rose after the European Central Bank signalled Thursday a likely June interest rate cut.

"Despite a few volatility spikes, EU stock investors reacted positively to ECB President Christine Lagarde's speech. The central banker reassured everyone, saying the ECB would stick to its rate-cut plan regardless of the recent hot inflation report in the US," said ActivTrades analyst Pierre Veyret.

London stocks fizzed higher on data showing the UK economy grew for a second straight month in February, further fuelling recovery hopes after sliding into a shallow recession in the second half of last year.

Dimming hopes for US rate cuts continued to support the dollar, which surged to another 34-year high above 153 yen, putting Japanese officials in the spotlight after they said they were ready to intervene in markets to support their currency.

- Key figures around 1330 GMT -

  • New York - Dow: DOWN 0.6 percent at 38,232.71 points
  • New York - S&P 500: DOWN 0.7 percent at 5162.26
  • New York - Nasdaq Composite: DOWN 0.9 percent at 16,294.11
  • London - FTSE 100: UP 1.1 percent at 8,009.93
  • Paris - CAC 40: UP less than 0.1 percent at 8,029.65
  • Frankfurt - DAX: UP 0.2 percent at 17,981.76
  • EURO STOXX 50: DOWN less than 0.1 percent at 4,964.73
  • Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.2 percent at 39,523.55 (close)
  • Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: DOWN 2.2 percent at 16,721.69 (close)
  • Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.5 percent at 3,019.47 (close)
  • Dollar/yen: DOWN at 152.96 yen from 153.27 yen on Thursday
  • Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0635 from $1.0726
  • Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2450 from $1.2553
  • Euro/pound: DOWN at 85.33 pence from 85.44 pence
  • Brent North Sea Crude: UP 2.1 percent at $91.71 per barrel
  • West Texas Intermediate: UP 2.6 percent at $87.20 per barrel