BANGKOK -- World stocks fell Wednesday as skittish investors waited for a key U.S. jobs report later in the week that will signal whether the world's largest economy is on the mend.
The U.S. Labor Department will release employment data for September on Friday. While the U.S. economy shows signs of resilience, thanks in part to rising car sales and home prices, hiring has remained too sluggish to reduce high unemployment, which is at 8.1 percent.
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The U.S. economy also is at risk for falling off a "fiscal cliff" early next year. That's when tax increases and deep spending cuts take effect unless Congress reaches a budget deal. If those measures do take effect, the economy could fall into recession.
European stocks dropped in early trading. Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.1 percent to 5,801.45. Germany's DAX was less than 0.1 percent lower at 7,300.12 and France's CAC-40 lost 0.3 percent to 3,404.64.
Wall Street was also set to fall, with Dow Jones industrial futures down marginally to 13,402. Standard and Poor's 500 futures fell less than 0.1 percent to 1,440.
Stock markets moved indecisively in Asia. Japan's Nikkei 225 fell 0.5 percent to close at 8,746.87 after a morning excursion into positive territory. Hong Kong's Hang Seng seesawed until closing 0.2 percent higher at 20,888.28.
Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.1 percent to 4,438.60, a day after the country's central bank cut its benchmark interest rate by a quarter percentage point in response to global economic uncertainties. Earlier, the benchmark touched its high point for the year at 4,454.60 in morning trading before dropping back.
Markets in mainland China and South Korea were closed for public holidays.
"Holidays in China and hesitancy ahead of Friday's US jobs report will keep market activity restrained today," analysts at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong said in a report.
Benchmark oil for November delivery was down 56 cents to $91.34 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 59 cents to finish at $91.89 on the Nymex on Tuesday.
In currencies, the euro rose to $1.2901 from $1.2935 late Tuesday in New York. The dollar rose to 78.22 yen from 78.13 yen.