European shares were back in negative territory on Thursday, a brief lift from U.S. Federal Reserve meeting minutes proving short-lived as investors worried whether markets could go it alone without the U.S. central bank's emergency support.
Faith in a rally in share prices dating back almost three years has more shaky over the past month than for some time, as the Fed nears what looks like a definitive end to its program of new money-printing.
The minutes from the U.S. central bank's last meeting, published after European markets had closed on Wednesday, offered no sign it was any closer to following that with a swift rise in official interest rates to cool the economy.
That boosted U.S. and Asian markets overnight. But the dominant concern at the European open was over companies' results and the economy's ability to survive without the new funds which the Fed's bond-buying has forced into the system every month.
Norway's largest bank DNB added to an inauspicious start to the second quarter earnings for some of Europe's biggest companies while construction firm Skanska said it would significantly scale down its loss-making Latin American operations.
"For many the markets are still a bit too expensive considered that the global recovery seems to be progressing somewhat slower than previously hoped," said Markus Huber, an analyst with trading firm Peregrine Black in London.
The dollar .DXY EUR=, seen as the big beneficiary of any move by the Fed toward higher interest rates, fell by as much as half a cent in response to the minutes but was broadly steady in early European trade.
Britain's FTSE 100 index was helped by an almost 4 percent rise for Burberry (BRBY.L) after the luxury brand reported a strong batch of earnings for the first quarter, boding well for other high-end consumer companies.
But oil prices were lower CLc1, normally a negative for the commodity heavy index, and the market was struggling to eke out any gains after a week of steady losses.
Germany's DAX .GDAX and France's CAC FCEc1 were both down between almost 0.2 percent.
That ran in contrast to the performance in much of Asia overnight, where the MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS gained 0.3 percent.
Tokyo's Nikkei .N225 bucked the trend and fell 0.3 percent, weighed down by a record drop in machinery orders in May that cast doubt over the outlook for capital spending and the strength of its economic recovery.
China's exports in June also missed market forecasts, but caused limited reaction in regional markets as it reinforced expectations that Beijing will have to unveil more stimulus measures to stabilize the economy and meet its 2014 growth target.
"The trade figures were not so exciting. It's still unrealistic to count on exports to be an important contributor to economic growth," said Wang Jun, an economist at the China Centre for International Economic Exchanges in Beijing.
"The import figure showed some signs of improvement on domestic demand. Taken together with weak inflation data, we think domestic demand remains weak. It would be relatively difficult for China to achieve its annual trade growth target of 7.5 percent in 2014."
Indonesian stocks hit their highest in over a year as the market welcomed the prospect of reform-minded Jakarta Governor Joko "Jokowi" Widodo becoming the next president, although his rival has refused to concede defeat after Wednesday's election.
The Jakarta market .JKSE was up 1.7 percent after earlier rising more than 2 percent. The Indonesian rupiah IDR=ID also gained 0.6 percent to 11,555 to the dollar.