A survey of manufacturing activity in Europe showed the sector stabilized in April after months of declines. Some analysts took that as evidence that the economy could pick up in the second half of this year after a sharp slowdown.
That seemed to shore up sentiment in Europe, which is heading for a long weekend for Easter holidays, after declines in Asia. In Asia, the Shanghai Composite Index retreated 0.4% to 3,250.20 and Tokyo's Nikkei 225 shed 0.8% to 22,090.12. Hong Kong's Hang Seng retreated 0.5% to 29,963.26 and Seoul's Kospi tumbled 1.4% to 2,213.77 following reports of problems with Samsung Electronics' new foldable smart phone.
Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 was up 3 points at 6,259.80 and India's Sensex retreated 0.1% to 39,247.01. New Zealand, Taiwan and Singapore also declined. U.S. indexes were expected to lack momentum on the open, with futures for the Dow down 0.1% and those for the S&P 500 roughly unchanged.
Wall Street's slide a day earlier was led by health care stocks. Investors fear the potential impact on profits from reform ideas being discussed in Washington and on the presidential campaign trail. Investors are meanwhile poring over company results this week, focusing on profit and revenue outlooks. Analysts expect the first quarter results for S&P 500 companies overall to be the weakest in nearly three years.
US-CHINA TRADE: The Wall Street Journal reported U.S. and Chinese negotiators are planning two more rounds of meetings aimed at ending a tariff war over Beijing's technology ambitions. The newspaper, citing unidentified sources, said the two sides are aiming for a signing ceremony in late May or early June. The countries have raised tariffs on billions of dollars of each other's goods, rattling global financial markets. Washington and other trading partners say Beijing's plans for state-led creation of Chinese competitors in robotics and other technologies violate its market-opening commitments.
US ECONOMY: The Federal Reserve says the economy expanded at a moderate pace in March and early April, despite uncertainty caused by trade tensions and Midwest flooding. The Fed's "beige book" on economic conditions said weakness remained, especially in sluggish consumer spending, which accounts for two-thirds of economic activity. The report will form the basis for discussion when central bank officials meet April 30-May 1 to discuss interest rates.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 18 cents to $63.94 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 29 cents on Wednesday to close at $63.76. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 11 cents to $71.73 per barrel in London. It shed 10 cents in the previous session to $71.62.
CURRENCY: The dollar declined to 111.89 yen from Wednesday's 112.05 yen. The euro fell to $1.1258 from $1.1299.