European equities dipped on Wednesday as investors took profits and eyed growing expectations that the US Federal Reserve would unveil more stimulus measures later this week, dealers said.
In morning deals, London's benchmark FTSE 100 index of top companies fell 0.43 percent to 5,750.83 points, Frankfurt's DAX 30 shed 0.36 percent to 6,977.61 points and in Paris the CAC 40 slid 0.34 percent to 3,419.78.
The euro edged up to $1.2567, supported by tentative hopes that the European Central Bank could restart a bond-buying programme. That compared with $1.2566 late in New York on Tuesday.
ECB head Mario Draghi wrote in an article for the German weekly Die Zeit that the ECB would always act within its mandate to ensure price stability, but that it might have to resort to exceptional measures.
"The ECB will do what is necessary to ensure price stability. It will remain independent. And it will always act within its mandate. Yet it should be understood that fulfilling our mandate sometimes requires us to go beyond standard monetary policy tools," Draghi said.
Meanwhile, Fed chief Ben Bernanke was due to address an annual gathering of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on Friday, with markets hoping he will outline fresh plans to boost the world's number one economy.
"Investors would rather sit this week out than get involved in the run-up to Bernanke's speech at Jackson Hole," said Mike McCudden, head of derivatives at online brokerage Interactive Investor.
"All the signs are there that he will announce additional policy easing but investors are not taking any chances."
The euro was provided with some support by news that Draghi would not be at Jackson Hole, which stoked speculation a new round of bond buying was near.
"The ECB president was due to speak at the meeting of central bankers on Saturday. However he has been forced to pull out due to a heavy workload," said Alpari analyst James Hughes.
"This is the biggest sign yet that the ECB are working hard to put the finishing touches to the bond buying program, which is expected to be unveiled at the press conference on September 6.
Added to the picture, Spain's debt-struck Catalonia region reached out Tuesday for a 5.0-billion-euro ($6.3-billion) central government rescue as the entire nation lurched closer to a sovereign bailout.
The northeastern region's government, facing huge repayments on its 40-billion-euro debt, said it would tap an 18-billion-euro liquidity fund set up by Madrid to finance troubled regions.
"The euro has managed to hold onto gains which were pushed higher yesterday as expectations increased that the ECB are close to unveiling their bond buying scheme," noted GFT market strategist Andrew Taylor.
"Spain had a lot to do with this vibe, as they moved closer to a full bailout thanks to the Catalonian region acknowledging that they could no longer survive without financial assistance."
Asian markets were mixed on Wednesday as traders looked ahead to Bernanke.
Tokyo gained 0.40 percent, Seoul added 0.64 percent, while Hong Kong fell 0.12 percent, Shanghai dropped 0.96 percent and Sydney edged down 0.07 percent.
"Players remain in wait-and-see mode leading up to the Jackson Hole summit where more hints on information about the direction of monetary policy are expected," said Hiroichi Nishi, general manager of equities at SMBC Nikko Securities.
Global markets enjoyed an impressive rally in August on hopes for fresh Fed stimulus and bond-buying by the ECB, while Chinese leaders are also expected to loosen monetary policy to kickstart the Asian giant.
Wall Street provided an anaemic lead after mixed economic data. The Dow index fell 0.17 percent and the S&P 500 slipped 0.08 percent while the tech-rich Nasdaq rose 0.13 percent.