Asian shares found a sliver of support on Wednesday following some punishing falls, but the reprieve could prove vanishingly short should minutes of the Federal Reserve's July policy meeting add to suspicions it will soon pare back on stimulus, Reuters reported.
Regional currencies were also calmer as India's rupee managed to avoid hitting another record low, though both the Indonesian rupiah and Thai baht extended their declines.
Reports that Japan's government would raise the severity of the latest leak at Fukushima to a level 3 event, or a serious radiation incident, sent shivers through stocks there.
But a late bounce saw the Nikkei recoup all its losses to end 0.2 percent higher. It was perhaps comforted by a declaration from Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda that he would not hesitate to expand the bank's massive asset buying campaign if the economic outlook darkened.
Early indications were that European shares would start fractionally firmer. Eurostoxx 50 futures were up 0.1 percent and CAC 40 futures 0.2 percent.
Others were not so fortunate. MSCI's index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan eased 0.3 percent having hit a five-week trough at one stage. Korean shares shed 1 percent while Shanghai lost 0.3 percent.
The common currency was up at $1.3418, having touched a six-month high of $1.3452 in New York. The dollar also slipped took a sharp spill on the Swiss franc to 0.9175 but regained some ground on the yen to 97.55.
Commodities markets were generally softer as the Fed loomed large. Copper futures dipped 0.4 percent to $7,292.75 a tonne, while spot gold inched down to $1,366.80, and away from a two-month high set on Monday.
Brent crude prices eased 53 cents to $109.62 a barrel, while U.S. oil for October delivery