A roundup of trading on major world markets:
NEW YORK - US stocks have opened lower for a second day after the run that saw new Dow and S&P records and a 15-year high for the Nasdaq on Monday.
Five minutes into trade on Wednesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was off 71.63 points (0.39 per cent) to 18,131.74.
The broad-based S&P 500 fell 8.89 (0.42 per cent) to 2,098.89, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite dropped 18.14 (0.36 per cent) to 4,961.77.
Dull data on hiring and car sales in February - though severe weather could have contributed - underscored the feeling of caution in the market going forward, analysts said.
LONDON - Europe's stock markets finished slightly higher following earlier sluggishness and a downbeat session in Asia, as investors looked ahead to the European Central Bank's interest rate meeting.
London's benchmark FTSE 100 index of top companies inched up 0.44 per cent to 6,919.24 points.
Frankfurt's DAX 30 rose 0.98 per cent to close at 11,390.83 points, while the CAC 40 index in Paris climbed 0.99 per cent to 4,917.35 points.
European indices had fallen on Tuesday after recent strong gains, with traders sitting tight as the eurozone awaits new central bank stimulus.
On Thursday, the ECB President Mario Draghi will unveil details of the bond purchase program the bank is embarking on later this month.
The euro hit a five-week low of $US1.1073 compared with $US1.1178 late in New York.
HONG KONG - Asia markets mostly fell following a retreat on Wall Street fuelled by profit-taking, with Tokyo hit by a stronger yen and Sydney dipping after data showed Australia's economy grew slower than expected in 2014.
With few trading cues, investors are keeping a watch on the start of China's annual parliament meeting on Thursday as well as European Central Bank details on its new bond-purchase scheme.
Tokyo lost 0.59 per cent, or 111.56 points, to 18,703.60; Sydney, which ended at a seven-month high on Monday, fell 0.54 per cent, or 32.3 points, to 5,901.6; and Seoul lost 0.15 per cent, 3.09 points, to 1,998.29.
Hong Kong fell 0.96 per cent, or 237.40 points, to 24,465.38, but Shanghai rose 0.51 per cent, or 16.48 points, to 3,279.53.
WELLINGTON - The NZX 50 Index fell 19.579 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 5874.082.