European markets closed lower Wednesday as optimism over an imminent recovery from the coronavirus started to fade.
The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed down almost 0.2% provisionally, with oil and gas stocks shedding 1.4% to lead losses, while the travel and leisure sector gained 3%.
Global markets continue to seesaw on hopes and fears over the direction that the coronavirus pandemic is taking. There was optimism that the virus could begin to slow its spread, but an end to the outbreak appears to be some way off.
On Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump blamed the World Health Organization for getting "every aspect" of the coronavirus pandemic wrong and threatened to withhold funding from the international organization.
But the WHO hit back on Wednesday. Dr. Hans Kluge, the organization's regional director for Europe, said: "We are still in the acute phase of a pandemic so now is not the time to cut back on funding."
On Wall Street, stocks rose slightly on hopes the U.S. could start to turn a corner on the coronavirus outbreak in the near future.
In terms of individual share price action, British insurers Direct Line and Aviva were among the worst performers, down around 7% and 6%, respectively. It comes after they and a number of other insurers canceled their dividends for 2019.
At the other end of the European benchmark, British retailer WH Smith surged almost 8%. On Tuesday, the company said it had raised £165.9 million ($ 205.9 million) from shareholders.
Meanwhile in corporate news, Tesco said it expected to take a hit of up to £925 million ($1.1 billion) from the costs of dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak. The U.K. supermarket group's shares slipped 1%.