Oil prices rose and U.S. futures also were higher.
Germany's DAX edged 0.1% lower to 15,241.78 and the CAC 40 in Paris was up 0.1% at 7,082.75. In London, the FTSE 100 shed 0.1% to 7,621.77.
The future for the S&P 500 was up 0.4%, while that for the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.3%.
On Tuesday, the S&P 500 tumbled 1.5% and the Dow industrials fell 1.1% . The Nasdaq composite lost 1.6%. September is on track to be the worst month of the year for stocks as investors become convinced the Federal Reserve will keep interest rates high for a longer time than they had earlier hoped.
In Asian trading, Tokyo's Nikkei 225 recovered from earlier losses, gaining 0.3% to 32,371.90. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng advanced 0.7% to 17,592.54. The Shanghai Composite index added 0.2% to 3,107.32.
In China, concerns have continued over heavily indebted real estate developer Evergrande. The property market crisis there is dragging on China’s economic growth and raising worries about financial instability.
Evergrande's Hong Kong-traded shares plunged 19% following an unconfirmed report by Bloomberg that Chinese police have put its founder, Hui Ka Yan, under residential surveillance. Shares in Country Garden Holdings, another debt-encumbered developer, were down 3.3%.
Australia's S&P/ASX 200 slipped 0.3% to 7,030.30. In Seoul, the Kospi edged 0.1% higher, to 2,465.07.
On Tuesday, the S&P 500 tumbled 1.5% for its fifth loss in six days, closing at 4,273.53. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.1% to 33,618.88, and the Nasdaq composite lost 1.6% to 13,063.61.
September has brought a loss of 5.2% so far for the S&P 500, putting it on track to be the worst month of the year by far, as the realization sets in that the Federal Reserve will keep interest rates high for longer than hoped for. That understanding has sent yields in the bond market to their highest levels in more than a decade, undercutting prices for stocks and other investments.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury edged up to 4.55% from 4.54% late Monday. It is near its highest level since 2007 and up sharply from about 3.50% in May and from 0.50% about three years ago.
One economic report on Tuesday showed confidence among consumers was weaker than economists expected. That's concerning because strong spending by U.S. households has been a bulwark keeping the economy out of a long-predicted recession.
A separate report said sales of new homes across the country slowed by more last month than economists expected, while a third report suggested manufacturing in Maryland, the Virginias and the Carolinas may be steadying itself following a more than yearlong slump.
While housing and manufacturing have felt the sting of high interest rates, the economy overall has held up well enough to raise worries that upward pressure still exists on inflation. That pushed the Fed last week to say it will likely cut interest rates by less next year than earlier expected. The Fed’s main interest rate is at its highest level since 2001 in its drive to get inflation back down to its target.
Besides high interest rates, a long list of other worries is also tugging at Wall Street. The most immediate is the threat of another U.S. government shutdown as Capitol Hill threatens a stalemate that could shut off federal services across the country.
Wall Street also is contending with higher oil prices, shaky economies around the world, a strike by U.S. auto workers that could put more upward pressure on inflation and a resumption of U.S. student-loan repayments that could dent spending by households.
“Indeed, this lengthy and dirty laundry list of developments collectively contributes to the apprehension and volatility of the financial markets,” Stephen Innes of SPI Asset Management said in a commentary.
On Wall Street, the vast majority of stocks fell Tuesday under such pressures.
Big Tech stocks tend to be among the hardest hit by high rates, and they were the heaviest weights on the index. Apple fell 2.3% and Microsoft lost 1.7%.
Amazon tumbled 4% after the Federal Trade Commission and 17 state attorneys general filed an antitrust lawsuit against it. They accuse the e-commerce behemoth of using its dominant position to inflate prices on other platforms, overcharge sellers and stifle competition.
Crude oil prices rose, adding to worries about inflation. Early Wednesday, a barrel of benchmark U.S. crude was up 98 cents at $91.37. On Tuesday, it climbed 71 cents to $90.39.
Brent crude, the international standard, advanced 62 cents to $93.05 per barrel.
The U.S. dollar rose to 149.04 Japanese yen from 149.03 yen. The euro weakened to $1.0568 from $1.0573.