BANGKOK (AP) — Subdued trading reigned in world stock markets Wednesday after the S&P 500's failure to punch through its recent record high for a second day instilled investors with caution.
There was little economic or corporate news, which put Wall Street's lack of momentum into focus.
Germany's DAX was off 0.2 percent at 9,683.91 and France's CAC-40 dropped 0.3 percent to 4,401.56. Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.4 percent to 6,803.20.
For two straight days the S&P 500 has approached its record closing high of 1,848.38 set Jan. 15 but faded on both occasions. That has boosted the confidence of "bears," investors who are betting that markets will enter a correction because they think current valuations aren't justified.
"The prospect of a pullback seems to be growing," said Chris Weston, chief market strategist at IG in Melbourne, Australia.
"Given we are coming to the tail end of earnings season, the question is what will be the catalyst for which the bulls will cling to from here?"
Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average closed down 0.5 percent at 14,970.97 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.5 percent to 22,437.44.
Singapore's benchmark shed 0.5 percent to 3,088.25 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 inched up 0.1 percent to 5,347. Seoul's Kospi rose 0.3 percent to 1,970.77.
Futures pointed to moderate gains on Wall Street, with Dow and S&P 500 futures both up 0.2 percent.
Benchmark U.S. crude for April delivery was up 36 cents to $102.19 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3752 from $1.3740 late Tuesday. The dollar rose to 102.32 yen from 102.24 yen.