World stocks were held in check yesterday by a political impasse in Greece that could lead it to a destabilising exit from the euro currency union.
Asian stocks closed mostly lower, but European shares got a lift after data showed Germany's economy grew 0.5 per cent in the first quarter of 2012 due to strong exports.
That helped Britain's FTSE 100, which rose 0.2 per cent to 5,475.11. Germany's DAX was marginally higher at 6,453.48 and France's CAC-40 added 0.3 per cent to 3,067.79.
Wall Street was headed for a higher opening, with Dow Jones industrial futures rising 0.4 per cent to 12,706 while S&P 500 futures added 0.5 per cent to 1,340.20.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 0.8 per cent to 8,900.74, its lowest close since February 3. South Korea's Kospi lost 0.8 per cent to 1,898.96. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.7 per cent to 4,266.30.
Mainland Chinese shares extended their losses, with the Shanghai Composite Index hitting another three-month low, losing 0.2 per cent to 2,374.90.
"The market remains unstable as investors are fretting over the economic outlook. The continued declines in Europe and the US are also hurting," Sun Chong, an analyst at Sinolink Securities, based in Shanghai, said.
State-owned oil and gas giant PetroChina fell 0.5 per cent while Baoshan Iron & Steel, China's biggest steel maker, fell 1 per cent.
But Hong Kong's Hang Seng, which some analysts said was oversold after more than a week of losses, rebounded 0.8 per cent to 19,894.31.
"We witnessed some signs of stabilising, the market is not falling sharply like the previous days," Francis Lun, managing director of Lyncean Holdings in Hong Kong, said. "So I think we have a high chance of ending the eight-day losing streak, but still the prospect for the market in May is still quite gloomy."