Wall Street pulled back, with the Dow retreating from yesterday's record close, as solid American jobs data failed to outweigh concern about Europe's outlook.
US job openings rose by 81,000 to 3.69 million in January from a revised 3.61 million in February, according to Labor Department data.
"We've got a long way to go to get back to a fully employed economy, but we are on the road," James Glassman, a senior economist at JPMorgan Chase in New York, told Bloomberg News. "If you look at the labour market data, you can't find any evidence of this political debate that is going on, the fiscal cliff, all that."
In afternoon trading in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average edged 0.01 per cent lower from yesterday's record close, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index fell 0.33 per cent, while the Nasdaq Composite Index declined 0.40 per cent.
US Treasuries gained ahead of the government's auction of US$32 billion in three-year notes today. The notes being sold yielded 0.41 per cent in pre-auction trading, versus 0.411 per cent at the prior sale on February 12, according to Bloomberg.
Paul Ryan, who was the Republican vice presidential candidate ahead of last year's elections, unveiled a proposal to cut spending, reform the US tax code and balance the budget over a 10-year period. Democrats immediately said there was no chance the proposal would pass through Congress.
The Stoxx Europe 600 Index finished the session with a gain of almost 0.1 per cent. Stocks in Paris and London rose, with the French and UK benchmark indexes both rising 0.1 per cent.
Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann today warned that the euro zone's financial and sovereign debt crisis represents the most significant risk for the economy in Germany.
"Only some of the confidence lost as a result of the crisis has been recovered so far," he said in a statement, adding that growth can be expected to become stronger as the year progresses in the absence of further shocks to confidence.
In the UK, the latest manufacturing data showed more weakness than anticipated, posting a surprise decline and raising concern the country is headed for another recession. The nation's manufacturing output dropped 1.5 per cent in January after gaining a revised 1.5 per cent in December, according to the Office for National Statistics.
"This is the penultimate nail in the coffin in terms of triple-dip - it's pretty much game over now," Alan Clarke, economist at Scotiabank, told Reuters. "Unless we have a stellar performance from the services sector, we're almost certainly in a triple dip."