Major stock markets dropped Wednesday as investors digested corporate news and awaited key inflation numbers, while cryptocurrency bitcoin closed in on $60,000 thanks to feverish demand.

London was dragged lower by top faller St James' Place, whose stock tumbled 32 percent after the wealth manager slashed its shareholder dividend and set aside £426 million ($538 million) for potential client refunds.

Vodafone's share price, however, rose 1.3 percent after the British mobile phone giant revealed it was in advanced talks to sell its Italian division to Swisscom for eight billion euros ($8.7 billion).

Frankfurt equities clung to gains but Paris edged lower after a downbeat Asian performance, with eurozone and US inflation numbers hotly awaited this week for a steer on the global interest-rate outlook.

Bitcoin rose toward $60,000, buoyed by US moves toward the creation of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that track the price of the world's most popular cryptocurrency -- and let the public invest without directly purchasing the digital unit.

"Investors shrugged off weaker-than-forecast US data yesterday and looked ahead to inflation figures from both the eurozone and the US later in the week," said City Index analyst Fiona Cincotta.

"While eurozone inflation is expected to cool to 2.5 percent, there are concerns that US inflation could prove to be sticky, which would support the Fed's view that it's too soon to start cutting interest rates."

Asian stocks were mostly lower on Wednesday after the release of lacklustre consumer confidence data, with comments from Fed officials also due later in the day.

Global equities had mostly risen on Tuesday, despite data showing pessimism among consumers in the United States and Germany.

On Thursday, traders will examine US inflation data as well as consumer and jobless figures regarding the world's biggest economy.

Expectations on a timeline for cuts to US borrowing costs have gradually shifted to later this year, as inflation data has come in hot and Fed policymakers have indicated they need to see more signs that inflation is moving towards their 2.0 percent goal.

Eurozone inflation figures are slated for release on Friday.

Key figures around 1115 GMT -

  • London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.7 percent at 7,631.30 points
  • Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 0.1 percent at 7,942.68
  • Frankfurt - DAX: UP 0.1 percent at 17,579.69
  • EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.1 percent at 4,880.62
  • Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.1 percent at 39,208.03 (close)
  • Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: DOWN 1.5 percent at 16,536.85 (close)
  • Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 1.9 percent at 2,957.85 (close)
  • New York - Dow: DOWN 0.3 percent at 38,972.41 (close)
  • Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0815 from $1.0853 on Tuesday
  • Dollar/yen: DOWN at 150.66 yen from 150.70 yen
  • Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2649 from $1.2684
  • Euro/pound: DOWN at 85.49 pence from 85.54 pence
  • Brent North Sea Crude: DOWN 1.0 percent at $82.81 per barrel
  • West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 1.2 percent at $77.95 per barrel