European markets fared better than their US counterparts, with the FTSE adding 24 points (+0.4%) to settle at 6412 and the German DAX putting on six points (+0.1%) to 7795.
U.S. stocks fell however, pulling the S&P 500 lower after a record high, as a report showed American manufacturing expanded less than forecast in March as factories slowed production and orders waned.
The Institute for Supply Management’s factory index fell to 51.3 in March from 54.2 a month earlier, the Tempe, Arizona- based group said today.
The median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg was 54. A reading of 50 is the dividing line between growth and contraction.
A separate report showed construction spending in the U.S. rose in February, paced by the highest level of home building in more than four years.
Data on March 29 showed consumer spending climbed in February by the most in five months and confidence unexpectedly improved in March, showing job-market gains are helping Americans overcome tax increases and concern about federal budget cuts.
Oil fell for the first time in six days and widened its discount to Brent on speculation that the closure of an Exxon Mobil pipeline will increase U.S. inventories.
Crude for May delivery dropped 16 cents to settle at $97.07 a barrel on the NYMEX.
Elsewhere, silver prices fell into a bear market as signs of a manufacturing slowdown in the U.S. and China, the world’s top consumers, spurred concern that metals demand will ebb.
The yen climbed to the strongest level in almost four weeks against the dollar after a gauge of U.S. manufacturing expanded less than forecast, adding to haven demand and damping bets the Federal Reserve might slow its bond- buying under quantitative easing.
Today’s action will bring us the latest RBA rate decision, at 2:30pm – it is widely expected that the central bank will leave rates on hold.