Global stocks staged a minor recovery Friday after the U.S. government said businesses were restocking their shelves faster than analysts expected, coming on the heels of a surprise Chinese rate cut.
The U.S. Commerce Department's announcement that wholesale inventories grew faster than expected in April went some way to turn round an overall down market.
The Dow Jones industrial, after falling 63 points in the morning, was up 29 points, or 0.23 percent, at 12,435.
European markets, meanwhile, stemmed earlier losses but failed to finish the day in positive territory. Britain's FTSE 100 closed down 0.23 percent to 5,435. Germany's DAX lost 0.22 percent to 6,130 and France's CAC-40 fell 0.63 percent to 3,051.
Before the Commerce Department's news, markets had reacted with in disappointment to Ben Bernanke's lack of indication about what the Fed might do in response to a slowdown in hiring. The 69,000 jobs created in May were the fewest in a year. Not even a decision to cut Chinese interest rates could raise the market gloom.
`'Clearly sentiment is all over the place," said Chris Weston of IG Markets.
Francis Lun, managing director of Lyncean Holdings in Hong Kong, said markets were "slightly disappointed" that Bernanke had not said the Fed would extend its Treasury bond-buying program, known as quantitative easing. The program injects money into the financial system, lowering interest rates to spur lending and growth.
"The economy is slowing much faster than people expected," he said.
China has rolled out a series of measures to stimulate the economy after growth fell to a nearly three-year low of 8.1 percent in the first quarter and April factory output grew at its slowest rate since the 2008 crisis. Private sector analysts expect this quarter's growth to fall further.
Investor concerns remained focused on Europe, where a lingering financial crisis has infected Spain and its banks.
Expectations are rising that Spain's leaders will have to seek an international bailout for banks, which credit agency Fitch estimates could reach (EURO)100 billion ($126 billion). Amid reports that Spain could ask for financial aid this weekend, the government on Friday said it would wait for results from independent reports on the financing needs of its banks. Those reports are due by June 21 at the latest.
Benchmark oil for July delivery was down $2.59 to $82.24 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 20 cents to finish at $84.82 per barrel in New York.
In currencies, the euro fell to $1.2451 from $1.2601 late Thursday in New York. The dollar fell to 79.38 yen from 79.68 yen.
Mainland Chinese shares lost ground, with the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index falling for a fifth straight trading day, shedding 0.5 percent, or 11.68 points, to 2,281.45, the lowest closing in more than two months.
Elsewhere in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 2.1 percent to close at 8,459.26. South Korea's Kospi dropped 0.7 percent to 1,835.64.
Pamela Sampson in Bangkok and Fu Ting in Shanghai contributed to this report.