By Herbert Lash
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Global equity markets were steady on Monday as upbeat U.S. data offset a contraction in Chinese manufacturing that renewed concerns about a slowing economy in China, while escalating tensions over Ukraine underpinned safe-haven gold.
Shares were little changed on Wall Street, following declines across European equity markets, as Ukraine's interior minister drafted a new special forces unit into Odessa and fighting continued near the eastern town of Slaviansk.
The violence in Odessa, a southwestern port with a broad ethnic mix from Russians and Ukrainians to Georgians and Tatars, was seen as a turning point in Kiev, encroaching for the first time into an area beyond the Russian-speaking east.
U.S. equities came off early lows after the Institute for Supply Management said its services sector index rose to 55.2 in April, the fastest pace in eight months, from 53.1 in March, topping expectations for a read of 54.1.
The data provided further evidence that the U.S. economy is emerging from a lacklustre winter, a lull largely blamed on harsh weather.
"It’s more confirmation the economy is strengthening and we are headed for stronger growth," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York.
"Unfortunately, we had those headlines out of Ukraine where the situation seems to be escalating, but once the market realized the economy is doing better we saw the snapback."
MSCI's all-country world stock index pared losses to trade down 0.05 percent, while the euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index also pared losses to close 0.21 percent lower at 3,171.29.
Markets in London were closed for a public holiday.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 2.18 points, or 0.01 percent, to 16,510.71. The S&P 500 gained 0.66 point, or 0.04 percent, to 1,881.8, and the Nasdaq Composite added 3.007 points, or 0.07 percent, to 4,126.905.
Pfizer Inc, the biggest U.S. drugmaker, pulled the Dow Industrials lower after it reported revenue well below analysts' expectations. Shares fell 2.4 percent to $30.01.
Gold prices hit three-week highs in thin trade, extending the previous session's gains, fuelled by the simmering tensions in Ukraine.
U.S. gold futures GCv1 for June delivery were up $7.10 an ounce at $1,310.00.
The data on China's manufacturing sector also weighed on crude oil prices. A private survey on Monday showed that the Chinese manufacturing sector contracted for a fourth consecutive month in April.
HSBC/Markit purchasing managers' index for April came in at 48.1, lower than a preliminary reading of 48.3, but up slightly from an eight-month low of 48.0 in March. A reading below 50 indicates contraction.
Oil slipped below $108 a barrel.
Brent crude for June delivery LCOc1 fell $1.32 to $107.27 a barrel. U.S. crude Clc1 was down 59 cents at $99.17 a barrel.
The safe-haven yen rose to a two-week high against the dollar on the Chinese data.
The greenback fell as low as 101.84 yen JPY=, its weakest level since April 17 and down more than 1 yen from Friday's near one-month high of 103.025 yen on trading platform EBS. It was last trading at 102.07, down 0.11 percent on the day.
The dollar index was down 0.07 percent, while the euro was 0.09 percent higher against the dollar EUR= at $1.3882.
U.S. Treasuries eased, giving up early gains
U.S. government bond prices fell, with the 10-year note US10YT=RR down 4/32 to yield 2.6077 percent.
(Reporting by Herbert Lash; Additional reporting by Catherine Evans in London; Editing by James Dalgleish and Leslie Adler)
(Reporting by Herbert Lash; Additional reporting by Catherine Evans in London; Editing by James Dalgleish)