Rising oil prices and forecasts showing the Eurozone economy shrinking this year weakened European stock markets on Thursday and pulled the single currency back from 10-week highs.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was down 0.1 per cent at 1076.50, while the MSCI world equity index was about 0.1 per cent higher at 329.55.
More upbeat data from Germany had given shares a boost in early trade and US stock futures still pointed to a firmer open, with attention focused on data expected to show a slight rise in US weekly jobless claims.
However, the European Commission's half-yearly forecast showed output in the 17 nations sharing the euro will contract by 0.3 per cent and the broader EU bloc stagnate, putting markets back in negative territory.
With Germany back to growth, weaker countries can benefit from increased demand for imports and should also return to some expansion later this year. However, ongoing austerity will continue to hold back economic growth," said Christian Schulz, an economist at Berenberg Bank in London.
Investors are still struggling to put aside concerns about Greece and the conviction that a long-awaited second bailout agreed on Monday does not mark the end of Athens' or the broader Eurozone's debt crisis.
The lack of growth makes it harder for governments to meet budget targets and reduce the levels of debt which have so unnerved markets.
Still, the euro was up 0.4 per cent at $1.3294, after hitting an earlier high of $1.3343 on the back of the German Ifo survey of business, which rose for a fourth month and was its strongest since mid-December.
While the US economy has been showing encouraging signs, growth momentum in Asia is slowing and economists worry that rising oil prices, linked to growing tension with Iran, will undermine efforts to put global growth on a stronger footing.
Oil prices, which soak up cash from both household and company budgets, rose to nine-month highs just over $124 a barrel. Because of weakness against the dollar, when converted into euros that represents an all time high of €93.60 a barrel.
"The negative impact [of the rising price of oil] is likely to be even greater on European economies because of domestic currency weakness," Lee Hardman currency economist of Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ.
"The price of Brent crude oil priced in euros... will provide another building headwind to growth in the region."
US crude futures for April were 15 cents firmer at $106.43 after climbing to a nine-month high of $106.28 a barrel the previous day. Brent crude for April delivery was up $1.27 at $124.17.
The doubts about the ability of Greece to implement the tough austerity measures needed to qualify for a €130-billion (Dh631 billion) bailout package and avoid defaulting on its debt continued to weigh on debt markets.
The Greek parliament was expected to endorse a debt swap with private bondholders later in the day that forms the core of the bailout package, despite new protests against tough budget cuts demanded in return for the rescue deal.
German government bond futures were 24 ticks higher at 138.77 in nervous trading, while 10-year cash yields were slightly higher just over 1.90 per cent.
Asian stocks declined as sales of previously owned homes in the US trailed estimates and on speculation China's Premier Wen Jiabao will lower the target for economic growth this year.
Datang International Power Generation Co., a mainland utility, slid 1 per cent in Hong Kong. Samsung Electronics Co. dropped 3.1 per cent in Seoul, leading technology stocks lower after Hewlett-Packard Co. forecast profit that missed estimates.
Mazda Motor Corp. sank 6.8 per cent after Japan's least profitable major carmaker said it plans to sell as much as 162.8 billion yen ($2 billion, Dh7.3 billion) in new shares.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index fell 0.2 per cent to 127.61 in Tokyo. The gauge has rallied the past nine weeks, extending its longest streak of advances since December 2005, on signs the US economy is improving, bets China will ease monetary policy and optimism Europe will contain its debt crisis. Shares on the index trade at 14.7 times estimated earnings, up from 12.6 times on December 16, when the rally began.
"We're seeing a bit of profit-taking as investors are looking for the next catalysts," said Angus Gluskie, who oversees about $350 million as managing director at White Funds Management in Sydney.
"Investors are very sceptical about whether a recovery can proceed without another hurdle jumping up again. The austerity measures running through Europe are likely to take the edge off growth."
Japan's Nikkei 225 Stock Average rose 0.4 per cent. A gauge of smaller companies on the Tokyo bourse's second section rose for a 28th straight day, the longest stretch of gains since 1961. NIS Group Co., a consumer lender, rose the most in the measure, advancing 50 per cent to 6 yen.
South Korea's Kospi Index dropped 1 per cent and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index slipped 0.2 per cent. China's Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.3 per cent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index slumped 0.8 per cent as property and financial stocks declined.