World stocks backed away from nine-month highs on Wednesday as worse-than-expected euro zone industrial figures and a warning about rising unemployment from U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke broke a seven-day winning streak.
The dollar was a touch softer against major currencies while oil remained under pressure after weekly stock data showed an unexpected rise in U.S. crude stocks.
MSCI's all-country world stock index .MIWD00000PUS was 0,02 percent lower, just off a 2009 high reached on Tuesday that took the index to levels last seen in October 2008.
The FTSEurofirst 300 .FTEU3 index of top European shares was down 0.4 percent but defensive plays such as utilities stocks were in demand as risk appetite receded.
Quarterly corporate earnings reports, including from U.S. majors, have provided positive surprises over the past week, helping to drive the recent rally.
But Fed chief Bernanke on Tuesday sounded a note of caution, saying U.S. unemployment was likely to remain high into 2011 and could sap consumer confidence and scupper an economic recovery.
Data showing May euro zone industrial orders falling by nearly a third year-on-year and down from a month ago despite expectations of a rebound provided another sobering reminder of the fragility of the global economy.
There's a lot of hope priced in about the strength of the recovery... Hope is good breakfast but a poor supper, eventually we'll have to see some meat on the table if the rally is to be sustained, said Henk Potts, strategist at Barclays Stock Brokers.
The dollar softened but recovered from earlier losses from Bernanke's comments, which implied U.S. interest rates would stay low for some time.
Bernanke was trying to improve policy credibility in the market and anchor inflation expectations, said Lee Hardman, currency economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ.
The dollar has been broadly stable and that is a sign that Bernanke's message has come across well, he said.
The dollar index .DXY, a gauge of its performance against six major currencies, was edged 0.2 percent lower at 78.800 after touching 78.591 on Tuesday, its lowest since June 3.
The euro stayed under pressure after hitting a seven-week high on Tuesday at $1.4278, close to its peak for the year.
Crude oil was down 60 cents but recovered to peek above $65 a barrel, recovering from earlier lows after an unexpected rise in U.S. crude stocks suggested demand in the world's top energy consumer was still weak.