Tuesday markets: no new meltdown, but no rally either

A mixed day for markets is normally code for not much happening.

These days it counts as progress.

Tuesday (March 17) saw Japan's Nikkei end flat, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng eked out a small gain.

Australia's benchmark index closed almost 6% higher, marking its biggest one-day gain in nearly 12 years.

But Seoul and Shanghai ended lower again, and Europe soon confounded hopes of a rally.

Major indexes there all dipped as much as 3%, only to claw back ground by mid-morning.

Governments are trying to help.

Tuesday saw France, Italy, and Spain all ramp up restrictions on short selling, or betting against stocks.

But Baader Bank's Robert Haalver says a rebound will be hard to sustain.

(SOUNDBITE) (German) HEAD OF CAPITAL MARKET ANALYSIS AT BAADER BANK, ROBERT HALVER, SAYING:

"The DAX is trying to counter steer but it will be damn tough because we are still right in the middle of the virus epidemic. There will be more bad news, with lockdowns likely, also for Germany so it will really hurt. This virus first has to pass. We will see a recession but that's something we can deal with. But we're not there yet."

Retail and leisure firms among those to see big drops on the day, as more countries move to restrict gatherings.

Shares in cinema chain Cineworld dropped as much as 25%.

And there was little relief for battered travel stocks either.

Holiday firm TUI dropped as much as 15%, while IAG - owner of British Airways - was down as much as 10%.

The selloff even now extends to assets usually seen as safe, with gold falling sharply.

Right now many investors just want cash, and that mostly means dollars.

The greenback gained again early Tuesday, up half a percent against a basket of currencies.