World stocks slipped on Thursday while the euro held above a recent 9-month low against the dollar as the European Central Bank prepared to announce next steps in stimulus withdrawal after its policy meeting.
The premium investors demand for holding Greek government bonds rather than those of Germany rose while Greek bank shares also rose after Greece announced it had mandated banks for a long-awaited 10-year bond issue.
The ECB is expected to hold interest rates at a record low of 1.0 percent but the focus will be on what changes it plans to make to the extra liquidity it has provided for the banking system since the crisis in 2008.
The meeting is expected to take a cautious tone on the economy given Greece's persistent debt troubles and concerns about the fragility of Europe's recovery.
The Bank of England, which also meets later, is likely to make no change to monetary policy.
Indications from the world's major central banks that they are ready to withdraw emergency lending has potential to pour cold water on stocks and other risky assets as their rally since March 2009 has come to a pause since January.
Such a tone from the ECB, on the other hand, could give a boost for the euro, which bounced higher on Wednesday from this week's nine-month low.
(An ECB decision to pare back liquidity) could be enough of a hawkish angle to give the euro a modest boost, said Daragh Maher, deputy head of FX strategy at Credit Agricole CIB.
If the mood regarding Greece improves further and (ECB President Jean-Claude) Trichet is supportively hawkish, we will likely see the exchange rate re-test overnight highs.
The MSCI world equity index <.MIWD00000PUS> fell 0.3 percent after hitting a five-week high on Wednesday. The FTSEurofirst 300 index <.FTEU3> lost 0.3 percent, with utility <.SX6P> and basic resource stocks <.SXPP>leading the fall.
Emerging stocks <.MSCIEF> fell 0.7 percent.
U.S. crude oil fell half a percent to $80.44 a barrel, off Wednesday's seven-week high above $81, also pressured by a stronger dollar.
The dollar rose a quarter percent <.DXY> against a basket of major currencies. The euro was down 0.2 percent to $1.3657, having hit a two-week high on Wednesday.
The Bund futures rose 3 ticks.
Investors expect the ECB to embark on some minimal tightening of conditions, most likely in access to 3- and 6-month money.
The ECB could switch back to auctions for its 3-month funding operations, shortening outstanding maturities as commercial banks take more money in flat-rate weekly operations. This would make it easier for the bank to reduce excess liquidity.
On Wednesday, Greece announced 4.8 billion euros ($6.6 billion) in extra austerity measures designed to secure European help to tackle its crippling debt burden.
The country needs to borrow or refinance some 53 billion euros this year, including 20 billion between April 20 and end-May.
Greece's 10-year price guidance was mid swaps plus 310 basis points. The Greek/German 10-year spread widened to 301 basis points from 289 bps. Greek shares <.FTATBNK> rose 1.1 percent. (Additional reporting by Tamawa Desai; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)