Asian stock markets put in a mixed performance on Wednesday, with Seoul gaining but Tokyo and Sydney weak as data showed the process of swinging the global economy around to a recovery would be a slow grind.
In Europe, financial bookmakers expected Britain's FTSE 100 <.FTSE> to open up, along with Germany's DAX <.GDAXI> and France's CAC-40.
Oil held above $70 a barrel after U.S. industry inventory data showed a bigger-than-expected fall in crude stocks, which pared some of the previous day's losses after data had unsettled investors about a potential U.S. economic rebound.
In Japan, business confidence pulled back from a record low hit three months ago, but the improvement was smaller than market players had expected and still a negative reading.
That followed an unexpectedly steep slide in U.S. consumer confidence in June, which dented optimism on Wall Street about prospects for recovery and weighed on shares in Asia.
But news of a smaller-than-expected drop in South Korea's exports lifted shares in Seoul 1.6 percent <.KS11>, and factory surveys in China showed a steady recovery in June, boosting Shanghai stocks <.SSEC> by 1.6 percent.
The broader MSCI index of Asia-Pacific shares excluding Japan, which hit a 2009 peak earlier in June, edged down 0.2 percent.
Tokyo's Nikkei share average <.N225> fluctuated heavily before closing 0.2 percent in the red.
Currencies too struggled for direction as rallies in commodity-related and riskier currencies paused.
There's no consensus in the market right now between optimism and pessimism, as it's in the midst of recovery trade after extreme moves, said Minoru Shioiri, chief manager of forex trading at Mitsubishi UFJ Securities.
Perhaps you can say the market has been leaning toward risk-taking, but it still needs to affirm that a recovery in the real economy is keeping pace with expectations.
In Japan, Orix Corp <8591.T> and All Nippon Airways <9202.T> slid after sources familiar with the matter said they were set to announce large public share offerings.
But construction makers such as Komatsu <6301.T> gained, helped by the manufacturing surveys data from China.
Brokerage CLSA's China Purchasing Managers' Index rose in June to an 11-month high of 51.8 and China's official purchasing managers' index (PMI) for June also showed China's economic recovery is on more solid ground.
Nonetheless, Australia saw a weak start to the new quarter. The benchmark index <.AXJO> fell 2.1 percent as miners such as BHP Billiton
Japan's business confidence figures came after the U.S. Conference Board's index of consumer attitudes fell in June to 49.3 from 54.8 in May, deflating U.S. stocks on the last day of the quarter.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> slipped 0.97 percent, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> dropped 0.85 percent and the Nasdaq <.IXIC> eased 0.49 percent. Still, Wall Street closed out its best quarter in a decade. <.N>
Markets are likely to be subdued as they await key U.S. jobs data on Thursday which help put another piece in the puzzle about how fast the world's largest economy is mending.
Speaking ahead of that and a raft of U.S. data later on Wednesday, San Francisco Federal Reserve President Janet Yellen said the Fed's key interest rates could stay near zero for a couple of years.
The dollar index <.DXY> initially gained but later dropped back to stand steady on the day and the yen recouped ground lost to outflows from Japanese pension and mutual funds, traders said.
The dollar climbed 0.3 percent to 96.65 yen, after touching its highest in nearly two weeks, while the euro was steady at $1.4033.
U.S. Treasury prices edged higher while the two-year Japanese government bond yield hit its lowest in three years as expectations grew the central bank would extend measures to ease corporate credit strains beyond a September deadline.
Gold edged higher to $930.10 an ounce, taking a breather after falling more than 1 percent the previous day when a stronger dollar prompted broad-based selling across the commodities sector.
U.S. crude futures stood at $70.41 a barrel, helped by news from the American Petroleum Institute that domestic crude stocks fell 6.8 million barrels to 349.7 million barrels last week, against analysts' forecasts of a 2 million barrel fall.