Hong Kong/Singapore: European stock index futures fell on Friday, following Asian markets lower, as a USD 447 billion jobs package from US President Barack Obama failed to entice investors back into equities amid concerns that it could be hamstrung by political wrangling.
The euro languished near a two-month low reached on Thursday after the region's deepening debt crisis forced the European Central Bank to drop its tightening policy bias, a key driver in the single currency's rally this year.
Euro STOXX 50 index futures fell 1.1 percent, with DAX and CAC-40 futures also in the red, and spreadbetters called the FTSE 100 to open down 0.3 percent.
Asian markets were down around half a percent, after see-sawing between gains and losses, while S&P 500 futures surrendered early gains and slipped 0.2 percent.
"Obama's plan was in line with expectations, and US stocks are unlikely to rally on it," said Takashi Ushio, head of investment strategy at Marusan Securities Co. in Tokyo. "Uncertainty about the direction of the US economy remains."
Market confidence had been fragile after Western central banks failed to offer any clues on fresh stimulus plans this week, with a looming deadline for bond holders to decide on Greece's swap offer also adding to the nervousness.
Investors are also eyeing a meeting of G7 finance chiefs later on Friday, with the faltering global economic recovery and feastering euro zone debt crisis likely to be the issues of the day.
China inflation eases
There was, however, better news from China, where consumer inflation appears to have peaked, with August numbers coming in slightly below July's three-year high, underscoring expectations that the central bank will hold off on further policy tightening as the global economy slows.
"Consumer inflation has obviously peaked. Inflation is no longer a big problem now," said Dong Xian'an, an economist at Peking First Advisory in Beijing. "On the policy front, tightening steps are at least on hold now.
US Treasuries slipped as markets reacted cautiously to the job creation plan from Obama, who faces a fierce battle to win over Republican opponents in a divided Congress which could revive the spectre of political paralysis in Washington.
Global markets have been dominated in recent weeks by fears of a US relapse into recession and Europe's snowballing debt crisis. Citigroup analyst Jonathan Stubbs said in a note on Friday that "recession appears to be a more likely outcome now in Europe and/or the US than 3-6 months ago".
Worries about the darkening outlook for the developed world prompted Asian central banks including South Korea and Indonesia to hold interest rates steady on Thursday, following similar moves by Australia, Canada, Japan and Sweden this week.
Japan's Nikkei fell 0.6 percent and the MSCI's broadest index of Asia Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.7 percent, on course for a weekly loss after two weeks in positive territory.
Some regional markets bucked the trend, though, with Australia and Taiwan, both heavily influenced by demand from China, posting gains.
The ex-Japan index is down more than 16 percent from its 2011 high in April, after fears about the US economy and Europe sparked a global market rout last month.
The European Central Bank on Thursday discussed downside risks to the euro zone's economy, while US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said in a speech that authorities would do all they can to boost growth and employment.
But both steered clear of announcing any fresh steps, disappointing some investors.
Wall Street's main indexes closed down around 1 percent, with banks the biggest decliners, after Bernanke gave no indications of new stimulus measures to support the flagging economy.
After the Wall Street close, Obama announced the package of tax cuts and government spending that will be critical to his re-election chances.
"At the end of the day, it depends on what the finished product will be," said Omer Esiner, senior market analyst at Commonwealth Foreign Exchange in Washington.
"A lot of this will be chopped up before it is passed. We've seen a lot of political paralysis in Washington."
The euro traded around USD 1.3895, not far above a two-month low of USD 1.3873 plumbed on Thursday.
Gold, propelled to a series of records in recent months due to its appeal as both a safe haven and hedge against inflation, was little changed at about USD 1,870 an ounce, after jumping 3 percent in the previous session.
Oil, which had dipped on Thursday as the dollar rose making it more expensive for holders of other currencies, was also flat, with US crude futures trading around USD 89 a barrel and Brent crude at USD 114.68.
"The question for the oil market is on demand destruction and how confident the consumer is, both of which are very uncertain," said Jeremy Friesen, commodity strategist at Societe Generale in Hong Kong.
"If European and US policymakers can find some compromise and willingness to work together before economics force their hand, then that is bullish for oil. But I think we will probably see the market grind sideways."