European stock markets dipped on Thursday, after a poor performance across Asia, as sentiment was hit by weak Chinese manufacturing data before the result of vital Spanish bond auctions.
In morning deals, London's benchmark FTSE 100 index of top companies slid 0.59 percent to 5,853.71 points, Frankfurt's DAX 30 lost 0.25 percent to 7,372.22 points and in Paris the CAC 40 shed 0.33 percent to 3,519.67.
Madrid's IBEX 35 decreased by 0.20 percent to 8,082.50 points ahead of the eagerly-awaited bond auction results that are due at 0900 GMT.
"All eyes will be on important Spanish bond auctions, constituting a good measure just how worried investors are concerning Spain still not having agreed to a bailout package," said ETC Capital analyst Markus Huber.
Spain, which is under market pressure to request a financial bailout for its economy, faces a key test of investor confidence on Thursday when it auctions long-term government bonds.
Madrid is seeking to borrow between 3.5 and 4.5 billion euros in three and 10-year bond auctions.
The Spanish government hopes to take advantage of a fall in its borrowing costs since the European Central Bank detailed plans this month to buy the bonds of indebted eurozone nations that submit to strict economic conditions.
But the bond purchase programme can be triggered only if the country in question seeks a bailout first.
Many analysts warn therefore that Spain's borrowing costs could skyrocket to unsustainable levels if the country continues to put off asking for aid from the ECB, leaving Madrid with no choice but to ask for a bailout.
"The longer-dated Spanish bond auction today will be keenly eyed in the run up to their anticipated bailout request," said Mike McCudden, head of derivatives at online brokerage Interactive Investor.
"Yields are widely expected to fall, but with Spain and Germany seemingly at loggerheads over terms to a deal, shares will come under increasing pressure as this saga drags on.
"With hopefully some decent unemployment numbers from the United States today, global investors will be looking west for inspiration."
The European single currency meanwhile dropped to $1.2976, down from $1.3049 late in New York on Wednesday, as the weak Chinese data spurred demand for the safe-haven greenback, dealers said.
Asian equities fell on news that Chinese manufacturing activity contracted again in September, and as enthusiasm waned over the Bank of Japan's economic stimulus package that had boosted shares on Wednesday.
Hong Kong slumped 1.20 percent and Chinese shares tumbled 2.08 percent to close at the lowest level since February 2, 2009.
Elsewhere, Tokyo dived 1.57 percent, Seoul lost 0.87 percent and Sydney dropped 0.48 percent in value.
Chinese manufacturing activity contracted for an 11th straight month in September, according to HSBC's preliminary Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) that was published on Thursday.
The survey adds to long-running worries about the world's number-two economy, which has seen its key export sector pummelled by shrinking demand in the crucial European and US markets.
HSBC said the PMI for this month hit 47.8, a mild improvement from a final reading of 47.6 in August. However, a reading below 50 indicates contraction, while anything above 50 shows growth. The final results will be released on September 29.
Adding to downbeat sentiment in Japan were figures showing the economy recorded its second straight monthly trade deficit in August owing to slipping exports caused by a worldwide slowdown.
Global indices had climbed on Wednesday, with Tokyo and Sydney hitting four-month highs, after the Japanese central bank said it would extend an asset-purchase scheme as it tries to jumpstart the domestic economy.
The move followed similar bond-buying plans by the US Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank, which had also helped send equities soaring.