Wall Street slipped overnight amid concern about the potential consequences of political outcomes in the US and China as well as Greece which remains a key hurdle to fixing the European Union's solvency crisis.
All eyes are on tomorrow's US elections where the battle for the presidency remains a close call. President Barack Obama pulled ahead of Mitt Romney in an October 31 - November 3 national poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, favoured by 48 per cent versus 45 per cent, compared with a deadlock of 47 per cent a week ago.
In afternoon trading in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.18 per cent, while the Standard & Poor's 500 Index slid 0.15 per cent. The Nasdaq Composite Index was steady at 1,412.03.
Shares of Apple rose 0.7 per cent after the company said it sold 3 million units of its iPad mini and fourth-generation iPad since Friday with demand for the new smaller iPad exceeding supply.
Earnings released today included those of Time Warner Cable, sending the stock 6.8 per cent lower on disappointing results.
Meanwhile, a week after superstorm Sandy hammered New York City and the surrounding area, nearly two million people remain without power as temperatures drop and officials struggle to find shelter for up to 40,000 people now without homes.
A new storm is threatening to bring more wind and rain to the East Coast this week.
In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index finished the session with a 0.6 per cent decline from the previous close. Benchmark stock indexes also closed lower in Germany, the UK and France.
This earnings season certainly hasn't helped boost sentiment on the outlook.
Profit has surpassed analysts' forecasts at a mere 53 per cent of the companies on the Stoxx 600 that have reported results since October 9, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Revenue has exceeded estimates at 50 per cent of companies, down from 60 per cent in the previous quarter, the data shows.
"There is no way really that you can paint a positive picture on third-quarter earnings," Bob Parker, senior adviser at Credit Suisse Asset Management in London, told Bloomberg. "That has been one of the reasons why we've had a stop-start market. Expectations for profitability for the third quarter both in the US and Europe were extremely negative."
In Greece, parliament is debating and preparing for a vote on a fresh austerity package that's required to secure further international bailout funds and ward off bankruptcy for the debt-laden country.
A private survey of China's growing services sector slipped in October, with weaker-than-expected new orders injecting a note of caution after three previous PMI surveys for October showed the world's second-largest economy regaining momentum, according to Reuters.