Oil and higher-yielding currencies pulled back from multi-week highs on Tuesday and Asian stocks drifted lower as investors paused in their recent chase for riskier assets.
Investors appeared to be searching for reasons to stump up more money as a buoyant mood the previous day wore off, and some traders said this was an opportunity to take profits.
The subdued tone looked set to carry over into Europe.
Financial spreadbetters expected Britain's FTSE 100 <.FTSE> to open 2-4 points lower, Germany's DAX <.GDAXI> to open unchanged to down 7 points and France's CAC-40 <.FCHI> to open up 1 point to down 5 points.
U.S. stock futures eased 0.2 percent following a lackluster session on Wall Street overnight.
Yet, some analysts said the market's sudden moodiness was likely to be temporary. If anything, they said surveys show investors are keen to hold less cash, indicating that appetite for riskier assets is strengthening.
Throughout the recent market turbulence, investors have been nervous, yet there has been no sign of a dash for the safety of cash, Barclays said in a note. It said it expects riskier assets to rise, albeit at a slow and choppy pace.
Tuesday marks the one-year anniversary of the S&P 500's <.SPX> 13-year closing low.
Bank of America-Merrill Lynch, noting that the index has rallied almost 70 percent since those lows, argued that history shows stock prices continue to climb in the second year after a bear market.
Only once was 'year two' a year of negative return, it said, referring to the early 1930s bear market. It said the average gain in the first year of recovery is 46 percent, followed by 9 percent in the second year.
The MSCI index of Asian shares outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> was little changed, after having hit its highest level in over six weeks on Monday, lifted by encouraging U.S. economic data last week.
In Tokyo, the Nikkei stock average <.N225> ended down 0.2 percent, having also hit six-week highs the previous day.
Commodity markets were also subdued. Oil prices fell 0.6 percent, off Monday's eight-week highs, as investors awaited industry data expected to show another rise in U.S. crude inventories.
To be sure, price performances this year show less risky trades as clear winners, even as a global recovery appears to slowly gather steam.
The yen and gold, traditional safe-haven plays, are up 3.1 percent, and 2.5 percent respectively.
Corporate and government bonds, especially those in emerging markets, have chalked up decent returns too. The benchmark JP Morgan Emerging Markets Bond Index Plus <.JPMEMBIPLUS> has gained nearly 3 percent so far this year, while the HSBC Asia dollar bond index is up more than 2 percent.
In contrast, the MSCI index of Asian shares outside Japan is down 0.7 percent since January. Likewise, the Australian dollar, an investor favorite among riskier, higher-yielding currencies is up just 1.3 percent.
The pull-back on Tuesday benefitted the U.S. dollar and yen, which are favored as safer investments in the currency market.
The U.S. dollar index <.DXY> edged up to 80.538, with resistance lurking around its February high of 81.34. The yen was firm against the U.S. dollar at 89.94.
The euro, still plagued by concerns about Greece's fiscal crisis, drifted lower to $1.3606.
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou tried again on Monday to contain the crisis and shore up support for Greece.
He urged the Group of 20 nations to go after market speculators, who he blamed for raising Greece's borrowing costs by betting the country may default on its debts.
Sterling also faltered on weak economic data and after Moody's said Britain faces a dilemma over its support for the banking sector.
(Editing by Kim Coghill)