LONDON (AP) -- Financial markets were leaden-footed Tuesday in the run-up to key economic events in Europe, the U.S. and China this week.
In the U.S., a run of economic data culminates on Friday with the publication of the delayed nonfarm payrolls report for October — a series of economic indicators that will go a long way to determining when the Federal Reserve will start to reduce its monetary stimulus.
In Europe, investors will be bracing themselves for the monthly policy meeting of the European Central Bank. Until last week's news that the annual inflation rate in the 17-country eurozone fell to just 0.7 percent in October, no change in policy was expected. Now, many economists think the ECB will either reduce its main interest rate to a record low of 0.25 percent or hint at future easing given that the central bank's main policy target is to keep inflation just below 2 percent.
And in China, leaders are scheduled to meet in Beijing from Nov. 9-12 to craft a new blueprint for the world's No. 2 economy as its state-led growth model runs out of oomph. Hopes are high that the plenum will announce changes to give private businesses a greater say in the economy but reforms will face resistance from officials and state companies who benefit from the status quo.
"Investors remain cautious ahead of U.S. GDP and jobs number, the ECB decision and the China third plenary," said Andrew Sullivan of Kim Eng Securities in Hong Kong.
In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was down 0.6 percent at 6,727 while the CAC-40 in France fell 0.4 percent to 4,271. Germany's DAX was 0.3 percent lower at 9,006.
Wall Street was poised for a soft opening, with both Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures down 0.3 percent.
Soon after the U.S. open, investors will be keen to see the impact of the partial government shutdown on the monthly report on the services sector from the Institute for Supply Management.
All the economic news out of the U.S. is being viewed through the prism of the Fed's stimulus. The Fed's $85 billion in monthly asset purchases have supported economic recovery by keeping interest rates low and have also been one of the reasons why many stock indexes, including the main U.S. markets, have struck record highs. Following the Fed's latest policy statement last week, some investors think "tapering" of the stimulus may begin as soon as December or January.
Earlier in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 closed 0.2 percent higher at 14,225.37 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.7 percent to 23,038.95. China's Shanghai Composite gained 0.4 percent at 2,157.24. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.8 percent to 5,431.96.
The mood was subdued in other markets, too. In the currency markets, the euro, which was hit hard last week by growing expectations of an ECB rate cut, was down 0.2 percent at $1.3486, while the dollar fell 0.3 percent to 98.29 yen.
Teresa Cerojano in Manila, Philippines contributed to this report.