The dollar firmed while most riskier assets fell on Wednesday as data from China and Australia deepened gloom about the global economic outlook, further reducing risk appetite already hurt by uncertainty about the timing of Spain's request for a bailout.
U.S. stock futures eased 0.2%, suggesting a weak start on Wall Street, while financial spreadbetters expect European bourses to open mixed.
Predictions from financial spreadbetters for London's FTSE 100, Paris's CAC-40 and Frankfurt's DAX ranged from a 0.1% rise to a 0.2% drop.
Demand for the safe-haven dollar pushed the index measuring the dollar against a basket of six major currencies up 0.1%, and lifted the greenback to a 1-1/2 week high of 78.31 yen.
The euro eased 0.2% to $1.2896. It has come off a three-week low of $1.28035 touched on Monday but is drifting away from a 4-1/2 month high of $1.31729 seen in mid-September.
In Australia, the nation's trade deficit blew out to its widest in 3-1/2 years in August, weighing on the local currency and paring gains for equities. Falling prices for iron ore and coal on weak demand from China has eroded export earnings.
The Australian dollar slipped 0.5%, extending losses to a one-month low of $1.0211.
Australian shares rose 0.2% after climbing as much as 0.5% to hit a 14-month high on the Reserve Bank of Australia's move to cut interest rates a day earlier to defend the local economy against global headwinds.
China's official purchasing managers' index for the services sector fell to 53.7 in September from 56.3 in August as growth in the country's manufacturing industry stabilised at a slower pace, putting the world's second-largest economy on course for a seventh straight quarter of slowdown.
"It's hard to get bullish when the numbers are so bad, especially in China and the euro zone," said Tony Nunan, an oil risk manager at Mitsubishi Corp, referring to weak manufacturing data released this week.
The Asian Development Bank also cut most of its 2012 and 2013 growth estimates for developing Asia on Wednesday, citing the impact of the slump in global demand on China and India.
The MSCI index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down 0.2% while Japan's Nikkei average finished down 0.5 percent.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng index, which resumed trading after a holiday weekend, climbed 0.2%. Markets in China and South Korea are closed for holidays on Wednesday.
RELIANT ON ECB
Analysts say markets nevertheless have become more resilient since last month after the U.S. Federal Reserve launched an aggressive stimulus package and the European Central Bank announced a programme to buy bonds of euro zone states which ask for assistance.
"Ever since these steps are taken, tail risks receded, market sentiment improved and market reactions to negative news became less acute than before," said Junya Tanase, chief FX strategist at JPMorgan in Tokyo.
"But there is no trend emerging as markets have not had a convincing assessment about risk for months," he said.
Other central bank policy meetings scheduled this week include ones for the ECB, the Bank of England and the Bank of Japan.
U.S. crude fell 0.2% to $91.72 a barrel and Brent fell 0.4% to $111.08.
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