LONDON — European stocks faltered Wednesday after two days of gains but Asian markets jumped on speculation Japan might take new measures to spur its economy.
Stocks in Europe recovered their poise this week after a run of losses, with sentiment bolstered by solid U.S. corporate earnings, a surprise improvement in German investor sentiment and relatively well-received Spanish bond auctions. An upward revision to the International Monetary Fund's global growth forecast also underpinned confidence.
How European markets close out the week will depend on Spain's ten-year bond auction on Thursday. If it goes badly, investors will likely fret once again about the country's ability to get a handle on its debts.
Spain has become the main source of concern in Europe's debt crisis as investors worry about the government's ability to push through a raft of austerity measures at a time when unemployment stands at a startling 23 percent and the economy is in recession.
The yield on the country's ten-year bond on Monday spiked above 6 percent, not far off the 7 percent rate that eventually forced Greece, Ireland and Portugal into seeking financial help from their partners in the eurozone.
In the past two days, however, it has edged back down to more manageable levels. On Wednesday, it was down a further 0.15 of a percentage point at 5.74 percent.
Despite the drop in the yield, Spanish stocks continued to oscillate wildly. On Wednesday, the main IBEX index down 2.2 percent. Elsewhere in Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was 0.1 percent lower at 5,760 while Germany's DAX fell 0.5 percent to 6,769. The CAC-40 in France was 1.1 percent lower at 3,254.
The euro was also faring poorly in the risk-averse environment, trading 0.4 percent lower at $1.3074.
Wall Street was poised for modest losses at the open after registering one of its strongest gains in a month. How it will actually perform will depend on the next run of U.S. quarterly corporate earnings.
"With the U.S. earnings season in full flow, investors will be looking to see if earnings reports continue to beat expectations," said Chris Beauchamp, market analyst at IG Index.
Earlier in Asia, sentiment was buoyed by indications that the Bank of Japan may do more to prop up the economy. Kyodo news agency reported that Deputy Governor Kiyohiko Nishimura's suggested the central bank might take additional stimulus steps to tackle deflation.
That helped the Nikkei 225 index in Tokyo to soar 2.1 percent to 9,667.26 and the dollar to rise 0.5 percent to 81.46 yen.
Other stock markets were up too, including Hong Kong's Hang Seng, which gained 1.1 percent to 20,780.73.
Mainland Chinese shares rose on hopes for financial reforms aimed at regulating private lending and creating new institutions to serve private borrowers better, analysts said. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index rose 2 percent to 2,380.85. The Shenzhen Composite Index gained 2.1 percent to 956.49.
Oil markets were subdued, with the benchmark New York rate down 6 cents at $104.14 a barrel.
Pamela Sampson in Bangkok contributed to this report.