Global stocks mixed as China reports solid economic growth

The better-than-forecast reading on China's growth follows a string of positive data indicating the economy is stabilising (AFP Photo/STR)

Global stocks finished mixed Wednesday following solid Chinese growth data while weakness in IBM and pharma stocks weighed on Wall Street.

Chinese data estimated first-quarter growth at 6.4 percent, better-than-expected and a sign government stimulus was helping to boost the world's second-biggest economy.

The news follows a number of readings indicating stability in China, with factory activity, exports, new loans and inflation all improving -- tempering concerns about a slowdown that could have a major impact on the global economy.

"From Beijing's perspective, this set of data should show that the policy reset in mid-2018 from de-leverage to growth support is starting to yield results," said Tai Hui, chief market strategist for Asia-Pacific at JP Morgan Asset Management.

Meanwhile, a Federal Reserve report described the US economy as expanding at a "slight-to-moderate pace," adding that the outlook was clouded by labor shortages and trade uncertainty.

Analysts are awaiting the next steps in the months-long US and China trade talks, with US President Donald Trump on Wednesday saying he expected the talks would be "successful."

Citing an unnamed source, The Journal said US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer was expected to travel to Beijing for a new round of face-to-face talks tentatively set for the week of April 29.

Lighthizer's office declined to comment on the report.

Bourses throughout Europe and Asia were generally flat to positive, while US stocks edged lower.

In the US, health and pharma companies such as Merck, Anthem and Eli Lilly all lost about three percent or more amid worries over proposals in Washington for universal health coverage.

Bill Lynch of Hinsdale Associates attributed the pullback in the sector to "Medicare for All" proposals by Democratic presidential candidates, which could hit profits or abolish private insurance.

Hinsdale added that the market reaction is "probably overdone given that the election is still a year and a half away."

Among other companies, Dow member IBM sank 4.2 percent after first-quarter sales of $18.2 billion lagged analyst expectations.

- Key figures around 2100 GMT -

New York - Dow: DOWN less than 0.1 percent at 26,449.54 (close)

New York - S&P 500: DOWN 0.2 percent at 2,900.45 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: DOWN 0.1 percent at 7,996.08 (close)

London - FTSE 100: FLAT at 7,471.32 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 0.4 percent at 12,153.07 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.6 percent at 5,563.09 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.4 percent at 3,477.73 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.3 percent at 22,277.97 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: FLAT at 30,124.68 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.3 percent at 3,263.12 (close)

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3039 from $1.3048 at 2100 GMT on Tuesday

Euro/pound: UP at 86.63 pence from 86.45 pence

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1296 from $1.1281

Dollar/yen: UP at 112.09 yen from 112.00 yen

Oil - Brent Crude: DOWN 10 cents at $71.62 per barrel

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 29 cents at $63.76 per barrel