The FTSE 100 (^FTSE) and European stocks struggled for direction as investors awaited results of a crucial US midterm election that will determine control of Congress.
On Wall Street, stocks rose slightly as investors awaited the results of the US midterm elections, which could impact future levels of government spending and regulation.
Investors are hoping for a political gridlock that could prevent radical policy changes.
Stephen Innes of SPI Asset Management said: "Well, at least that’s the conventional wisdom, and the rationale is pretty straightforward.
"Gridlock cross-checks each party’s 'worst impulses,' and less activist fiscal policy is conducive to lower market volatility. That could be particularly helpful in 2022 and 2023 to the extent it calms rates volatility, the principal sponsor of this year’s historic cross-asset malaise."
The UK's blue-chip index struggled all session to make any gains after a raft of new data highlighted trouble on the high street.
Housebuilder Persimmon (PSN.L) was the biggest faller, retreating 6% after it sounded the alarm over a slowdown in the property market.
Victoria Scholar, head of investment at Interactive Investor, said: “Persimmon has warned it expects few completions next year versus this year, sending shares to the bottom of the FTSE 100.
“The housebuilder said rising interest rates and economic uncertainty are impacting mortgage lending and customer behaviour. However, Persimmon says it is on track to deliver its previously guided range for full-year completions of between 14,500 and 15,000 homes."
The latest British Retail Consortium figures showing UK retail sales growth slowed in October to 1.2% year-on-year versus 1.8% in September impacted sentiment.
Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor, said “The depth and breadth of the group offering has resulted in an annual performance which has largely defied the difficulties of the wider economic backdrop, boosting the shares in early exchanges.
"Unfortunately, September’s profit warning on prospects for next year is still ringing in investors’ ears. An outlook which incorporates further cost inflation, some ongoing supply chain pressures and, in particular, an increasingly cash-strapped consumer all look likely to weigh on the numbers to come."
Meanwhile, Brent crude (BZ=F) has retreated to $97 (£84.60) per barrel, slipping 0.2%.
Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda, said: "Oil prices are easing a little on Tuesday, a day after Brent crude came within a whisker of $100 again. It's traded below this major psychological level since July but recent developments have propelled the price higher again, up more than 20% from the September lows.
"OPEC+ had a big hand to play in that but speculation around China's zero-COVID-19 commitment may also be a factor in recent gains. That said, those rumours still haven't been confirmed and in fact, outbreaks in Guangzhou and other major cities have led to increased restrictions.
"It may be a little early to get carried away with speculation, especially when any significant change in policy would represent an enormous shift from the status quo. Still, the performance of Chinese stocks suggests there's a belief that there's no smoke without fire, which may also be enabling the continued rise in crude."
In Asia, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 (^N225) advanced 1.2% to finish at 27,872 while the Hang Seng (^HSI) in Hong Kong slipped 0.2% to 16,557. The Shanghai Composite (000001.SS) also closed in the red, falling 0.4% to 3,064 points.