Caught between the good news of US stimulus packages and a potential virus treatment, and the bad news that the pandemic might be flaring up again in China, markets seemed unsure of what to do.
UK stocks remained subdued, with the top index in London, the FTSE 100, closing the day up a fairly anaemic 0.2%, or 10.4 points, to 6,253.25.
It came a day after news from the US sent shares soaring around the world.
Late on Monday the Federal Reserve said it would start buying bonds of individual corporations, rather than just getting bonds in packages.
However new outbreak emerged from a food market in Beijing this week, raising fears of a second wave that could tear through the country.
It has also highlighted how vulnerable other countries could be as they start re-opening the economy.
“The markets ended up striking something of a balance on Wednesday, caught between the residual positivity of Tuesday’s US stimulus/steroid treatment hopes, and the realities of a potential second wave,” said Connor Campbell, an analyst at Spreadex.
“Investors just couldn’t quite decide where on that optimism/pessimism spectrum that sat.”
European markets fared better than their counterpart in London, with France’s Cac 40 leading the way with a 0.9% rise.
The Dax in Frankfurt added 0.5%, while on the other side of the Atlantic both the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones were more or less flat shortly after markets closed in Europe.
The FTSE was also pushed lower by a falling oil price, with Brent down 1% to 40.56 US dollars per barrel, cancelling out part of the benefit of a falling pound, down 0.4% to 1.2526 dollars and flat against the euro at 1.1164.
However, traders may also be hopefully looking ahead to Thursday, when the UK might announce a new stimulus of its own.
Mr Campbell said: “There may be some good news on the way for the UK index on Thursday, however, if the Bank of England extends its bond-buying programme by another £100 billion like analysts expect.”
In company news, a dividend from SSE, and the news that it was going to invest more than £7 billion into renewable energy, including two new major wind farms, put the energy giant top of the pile in the FTSE 100.
Shares were up by 9.1% by the end of the day.
In a distant second place, homebuilder Berkeley reported a better than expected pr-tax profit for the latest financial year.
At nearly £504 million it was more than £28 million ahead of guidance given in March.
Investors were happy, sending the shares up by more than 4% even though the profit was more than a third lower than last year.
Banknote maker De La Rue had an even better day, up 5.1% after it announced plans to raise £100 million from investors, including £80 million that will be funnelled into its turnaround plan.
HSBC’s shares were fairly unmoved, down 0.5%, by the news that it has restarted a plan to cut around 35,000 jobs around the world that was put on hold due to the pandemic.
Boohoo shares leapt 6.6% on Wednesday as it bought collapsed clothes chains Oasis and Warehouse for £5.3 million and upped its profit outlook as lockdown trading remained strong.
And finally, there was a 6.2% boost for Kingfisher shareholders as the B&Q owner said that its like-for-like sales had increased by more than a fifth in the three months to June 13 compared to last year.
The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were SSE, up 116p to 1,385p, Berkeley Group, up 175p to 4,397p, Aveva, up 147p to 4,084p, Meggitt, up 9.2p to 319.2p, and Just Eat Takeaway, up 186p to 7,860p.
The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were Carnival, down 80p to 1,275p, Legal & General, down 10.2p to 222.8p, IAG, down 9.7p to 270.5p, Aviva, down 9.8p to 278.3p, and Bunzl, down 61p to 2,088p.