World equities ticked down on Wednesday though they were headed for their fourth consecutive quarterly rise, while the dollar hit a three-month high against the yen and the Australian dollar fell.

Copper prices retreated on concern about a supply surplus in China, the world's top consumer of industrial metals, and safe-haven government bonds were flat in the last trading day of the quarter.

World stocks measured in MSCI All-Country World Index <.MIWD00000PUS> drifted 0.1 percent lower, though the benchmark is set to post its best monthly rise since July last year and on track to register a fourth straight quarterly gain.

The 2.6 percent gain for world stocks in the first quarter of 2010 outpaces a 1.9 percent rise in emerging market shares <.MSCIEF> for the same period.

In Europe, the FTSEurofirst 300 <.FTEU3> index were up 0.2 percent. The benchmark is up 3.4 percent this quarter, on track for the fourth consecutive quarterly rise.

Markets were rocky at the peak of the Greek crisis, but now volumes have fallen again, the news flow has dried up, there is no catalyst, said Jacques Henry, analyst at Louis Capital Markets in Paris.

Unless we get some sort of surprise on the macro data front, like with the payrolls this week, the market might move sideways for a bit.

Tokyo's Nikkei average <.N225> hit an 18-month intraday high before paring gains to end 0.1 percent lower. The Japanese blue chip index gained 5.2 percent in January-March.

The monthly U.S. ADP Employment report, due at 8:15 a.m. ET, is likely to be keenly watched ahead of the U.S. March non-farm payrolls numbers which will be released on Friday when most equity markets around the world are closed.

The ADP job report is expected to show the private sector created 40,000 jobs in March as the world's largest economy emerges from recession.


The dollar climbed above 93.50 yen to its highest since early January as Japanese investors took positions in preparation for the next fiscal year, and sterling hit its highest in a month at 140.96 yen.

We've seen a pick-up in dollars from Japanese investors, who are seen increasing dollar-denominated assets on an unhedged basis for the next fiscal year, said Lee Hardman, currency economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ in London.

The euro held near $1.34, still vulnerable above 10-month lows as a bout of short-covering appeared to have run its course, with euro zone fiscal worries never far away.

Against a basket of major currencies, the dollar <.DXY> was down 0.1 percent. It has climbed 4.6 percent so far this quarter, the best three-month gain since the first quarter of 2009. The Aussie dollar fell 0.4 percent to $0.9149 after retail sales data came in lower than forecast, denting expectations for an interest rate hike next week.

Crude prices steadied above $82 a barrel and are up 3.9 percent this quarter, heading for its fifth consecutive quarterly gain as recovering demand outweighs ample supplies and concern over monetary tightening in major economies.

Copper prices broke a four-day winning run, down 0.5 percent. The metal, however, is up nearly 6 percent so far in the first quarter of this year.

Yields on 10-year benchmark U.S. Treasuries were steady at 3.862 percent, while those on 10-year Bunds were also steady at 3.100 percent.

The premium investors demand to buy Greek government debt rather than euro zone benchmark German Bunds was steady at 339 basis points.

(Additional reporting by Blaise Robinson in Paris, Tamawa Desai and William James in London, editing by Mike Peacock)