Global shares fell for a fifth straight day on Tuesday and the euro slid to a more than two-month low against the dollar after international lenders clashed over help for Greece, stoking fears the country's debt crisis could flare up anew.
Concern about the looming U.S. "fiscal cliff," a series of budget cuts and tax hikes worth $600 billion that could risk pushing the economy back into recession, weighed on the S&P 500 and Nasdaq.
"Global financial markets are in a cautious mood today," said Nick Bennenbroek, head of currency strategy at Wells Fargo in New York. "Between euro zone debt jitters and the U.S. fiscal cliffs market worries are likely to persist."
The MSCI world equity index fell 0.4 percent to 321.45 points, having hit its lowest point since early September. The index has lost about 2.5 percent so far this month.
European shares shed 0.4 percent to 1090.80 points.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average edged up 11.10 points, or 0.09 percent, at 12,826.18. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index fell 0.62 points, or 0.04 percent, at 1,379.41. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 7.91 points, or 0.27 percent, at 2,896.35.
The euro slid as low as $1.2660 on Reuters data, the weakest since September 7, before recovering to $1.2696, down 0.1 percent on the day.
The euro zone common currency trimmed losses after a German newspaper said Germany wants to bundle Greek aid into a single payment of more than 44 billion euros.
Traders interpreted the report, which cited government sources, as a sign that the euro zone's paymaster was eager to see a deal done. Asked about the report, a German finance ministry spokeswoman said no final decision had been made on Greek loans.
But analysts say the euro remained vulnerable to uncertainty about Greece after euro zone finance ministers on Monday held off disbursing more aid to the debt-ridden country. A further Eurogroup meeting would take place on November 20.
The International Energy Agency, which advises industrialized nations on energy policy, issued a bearish report on Tuesday, showing improving supply, more limited increases in demand and rising global inventories.
Gold eased for a second day, tracking losses in stocks and other commodities. Spot gold was last at $1,727 an ounce.
Concern about Greece and a possible U.S. fiscal crisis drove safe-haven U.S. Treasury debt higher. The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note was up 6/32, with the yield at 1.5911 percent.
Copyright @ Thomson Reuters 2012