Itsuo Inouye, Associated Press
PARIS — A survey indicating that U.S. business investment could be picking up pushed shares up higher for a while Wednesday before doubts over a resolution to the eurozone's debt crisis resurfaced to keep sentiment in check.
American companies ordered more machinery, computers and communication equipment in August, but cut demand for autos and primary metals. That left demand for longer-lasting factory goods relatively flat for the month — but the figure was better than the expected drop and markets rallied.
"This report gives upside risk to our estimates for business investment in equipment and software," said Jennifer Lee of BMO Capital Markets.
But investors appeared to quickly return their gaze to the debt crisis, which has caused remarkable volatility in markets in recent weeks. Stocks have seemingly moved on every twitch from European leaders on whether Greece will gets its next loan installment, whether national parliaments will agree to a stronger pan-European bailout fund and whether there's a credible plan to save Italy and Spain from needing rescue loans themselves.
The overall trend had been pessimistic until Monday, when it seemed that finally Europe's leaders were agreeing on a strong set of measures.
That optimism was dashed on Wednesday, amid reports that leaders were split again on the way forward. There is some debate about whether Greece's debt load should be slashed further; some argue that given its economy is contracting, it will never be able to pay off its current debts without more relief.
Investors also appear to be waiting for a German parliamentary vote Thursday on expanding the eurozone's bailout fund. Finland's lawmakers backed the new powers earlier.
"The markets are readying themselves for concrete news now but the slow progress of politics could mean the markets are setting themselves up for a fall," said Jane Foley of Rabobank.
Despite the Finnish yes, most European shares were down but remained markedly higher over the week so far.
In France, the CAC-40 fell 1.7 percent to 2,973 while Germany's DAX dropped 1.9 percent to 5,524. The FTSE index of leading British shares was 1.9 percent lower at 5,196.
U.S. markets were trading lower after an early boost following the release of the U.S. factory goods data. The Dow Jones industrial average was down 0.1 percent at 11,183 while the broader Standard & Poor's 500 fell 0.3 percent to 1,173.
The euro, however, held its own against the dollar, rising 0.2 percent to $1.3610.
But concerns about the global economy continued to weigh on oil. Benchmark oil in New York fell 68 cents to $83.84.
Earlier, shares in Asia lost steam after spending the morning in positive territory.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index eked out a gain of less than 0.1 percent to close up just 5.70 points at 8,615.65. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was 0.9 percent higher at 4,039.50. But South Korea's Kospi gave up earlier gains and closed down 0.7 percent to 1,723.09.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng sank 0.7 percent to 18,011.06 while benchmarks in Singapore and Thailand also fell.
AP Business Writers Pamela Sampson in Bangkok and Martin Crutsinger in Washington contributed to this report.
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