European stocks moved in a holding pattern Thursday ahead of Spain announcing the cost of bailing out its banks, and after the US Federal Reserve promised only muted stimulus to boost the economy.
Markets were also downbeat following weak Chinese and European manufacturing data but were off early-session lows in the wake of a solid Spanish bond auction, traders said.
In afternoon trading in London, the benchmark FTSE 100 index of leading companies was down 0.51 percent at 5,593.63 points.
Frankfurt's DAX 30 edged up 0.24 percent to 6,407.45 points and in Paris the CAC 40 gained 0.26 percent to 3,134.60 percent.
Madrid's IBEX 35 index climbed 1.37 percent and Milan jumped 1.49 percent amid renewed talk about having the EU rescue funds buy government bonds.
In foreign exchange deals, the euro fell to $1.2662 from $1.2702 late on Wednesday in New York.
The dollar rose to its highest level against the yen for a month, climbing to 80.09 yen from 79.56 late on Wednesday in New York.
"Financial markets are under pressure again, with clients reducing appetite for risk -- preferring traditional safe havens like core government bonds versus equities and riskier currencies like the euro," said Ishaq Siddiqi, a market strategist at ETX Capital trading group in London.
Madrid was to reveal the price of a vast banking rescue that has stoked fears of a full-blown bailout after European markets closed at 1530 GMT.
Ahead of the announcement, Spain showed it could still tap the bond market at a pivotal time by easily raising 2.22 billion euros for a mixture of two-, three and five-year bonds. But it had to pay soaring rates to lure investors.
"A solid Spanish debt auction has been a driver of the markets' mild recovery heading into lunch," said Siddiqi.
Asian stock markets meanwhile mostly closed lower Thursday on disappointment at the US Federal Reserve's muted stimulus measures aimed at kickstarting the economy, while European concerns also remained in focus.
Adding to the selling pressure were preliminary numbers from banking giant HSBC showing China's manufacturing activity hit a seven-month low in June.
Sydney's stock market fell 1.09 percent, Seoul gave up 0.79 percent and Hong Kong tumbled 1.30 percent. Tokyo closed up 0.82 percent owing to a slightly weaker yen, traders said.
Meanwhile eurozone private sector activity sank to the lowest level for three years in the second quarter, suggesting gross domestic product is likely to have fallen by 0.6 percent, a key survey showed Thursday.
The Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) compiled by business research firm Markit was stuck at 46 points in June, the same level as May, indicating another month of contraction in activity.
"The downturn is gathering pace and spreading across the region," said Markit chief economist Chris Williamson.
On Wednesday, the US central bank disappointed investors when it announced it would extend its operation of lengthening the maturities of US government bonds it holds instead of launching a third round of monetary stimulus -- or quantitative easing.
The Fed, after a two-day meeting, also predicted US growth would be even worse than thought this year, forecasting 2012 growth of between 1.9 and 2.4 percent -- a half point cut from predictions made as recently as April.
Meanwhile on Thursday new claims for unemployment benefits in the United States were nearly flat at 387,000 last week, showing little change from recent poor data.
US stocks opened mixed, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average nudging up 0.12 percent to 12,840.06 points in early trading.
The broader S&P 500 dipped 0.12 percent to 1,354.05 points while the tech-heavy NASDAQ composite index slid 0.33 percent to 2,920.878 points.