European stock markets finished lower on Tuesday. London's Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index dipped 27.5 points, or 0.61%, to 4,496.80, on profit taking amid some poor insurance industry results, reports S&P's MarketScope.
"Traders were not impressed with a report that business sentiment rose 1.3% in the fourth quarter," according to Marketscope.
Prudential, which cut its dividend payout for the second time, was lower as its full-year profits lagged analysts' forecasts.
In Paris, the CAC 40 edged 47.71 points lower, or 1.28%, to 3,683.44 on disappointing earnings forecasts. Television Francaise 1 was lower as its 2003 earnings arrived less than analysts' expectations. France Telecom was also lower.
Germany's DAX index slumped 1.9%, down 77.29 points, to 3,991.42, as Germany's IFO business climate index fell for the first time in 10 months to 96.4. The drop was led by wholesaling and manufacturing - two sectors highly sensitive to foreign exchange moves, says Informa. Munich Re was lower as Allianz said it would reduce its stake in the company. Carmaker Volkswagen was also lower, as it cut the price of its Golf model.
Asian markets finished mixed on Tuesday. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index had its biggest drop since mid-December, slipping 224.83 points, or 2.07%, to 10,644.13. NEC and Hitachi, Japan's largest maker of electronics, dropped as a slide in the Nasdaq overnight raised concern that gains in technology stocks have outstripped their earnings potential, reports MarketScope. NEC, which added 78% in 2003, fell 3.6% on Tuesday, wiping out this year's gains. Hitachi shed 3.8%.
In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index added 13.24 points, or 0.10%, to 13,778.31.
Canada's benchmark S&P/TSX fell 4.63 points, or 0.05%, to 8,604.99.