European stocks were little changed on Thursday as the European Central Bank kept interest rates at record lows but gave no indication of when or if it may give the eurozone economy a further boost.
London's benchmark FTSE 100 index of top companies edged up 0.15 percent to close up 5,766.55 points, while in Paris the CAC 40 slipped 0.09 percent to 3,223.36 points and in Frankfurt the DAX 30 lost 0.24 percent to 6,694.44 points.
Madrid's IBEX 35 index climbed 0.29 percent after Spain managed to sell 2.52 billion euros in three- and five-year bonds, although at considerably higher rates.
France, however, raised 7.43 billion euros at lower rates in a closely watched auction of medium- and long-term bonds just three days ahead of the second round of the presidential election.
In foreign exchange deals, the euro dipped to $1.3148 from $1.3156 in New York late on Wednesday.
ECB policymakers, meeting in Spain at the heart of the eurozone debt storm, held borrowing costs at historic lows Thursday to help keep economic growth alive.
The central bank governors of the 17 eurozone member states, convening in Barcelona's giant conference centre under tight security, voted to keep borrowing costs at 1.0 percent for the sixth month in a row.
While no analysts had expected any change in rates or further anti-crisis measures this month, following a raft of recent policy steps to prop up the euro and keep the single currency area's debt-wracked economy up and running, the markets were looking for hints of when or if it might act.
Instead ECB chief Mario Draghi weighed in on a burgeoning debate in the eurozone as a growing number of governments begin to baulk at the belt-tightening measures prescribed under the recently agreed "fiscal compact,", complaining that austerity risks undercutting growth.
"There is absolutely no contradiction between a growth compact and a fiscal compact," Draghi told a news conference after the ECB's regular monthly policy meeting.
There have been massive protests in Greece, just bailed out again, and in embattled Italy and Spain against such austerity drives, with the Dutch government failing last month over belt-tightening measures.
In France, leading presidential Socialist candidate Francois Hollande has called for a re-negotiation of the fiscal compact to include growth measures.
It was Draghi himself who first talked of a "growth compact" to complement the fiscal compact last month but he rejected any idea that growth should be bought at the cost of bringing down deficits.
"We have to put growth back at the centre of the agenda," but he said easing up on fiscal consolidation would "not be much help."
He advocated further structural reforms to boost economic competitiveness.
In Spain, a bond auction on Thursday resulted in the Madrid government paying sharply higher borrowing costs on three- and five-year debt.
A positive start on Wall Street evaporated as well as weak data from the manufacturing sector sent markets into the red.
Early news that fewer than expected Americans claimed unemployment benefits was trumped by data showing the all-important service sector of the US economy grew more slowly in April than March.
Earlier the Labor Department reported new claims for US unemployment benefits dropped more quickly than expected last week.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.63 percent to 13,184.79 points in afternoon trading, while the S&P 500 fell 0.81 percent to 1,391.01 points and the tech-heavy Nasdaq was down 1.27 percent to 3,020.95 points.
The Institute for Supply Management's services index fell to 53.5 from 56.0, showing the services sector continues to expand, but only sluggishly.
Asian stock markets mostly fell on Thursday following the previous day's weak jobs data from the United States and Europe as well as figures showing eurozone manufacturing falling for a ninth straight month, dealers said.
Sydney slipped 0.16 percent and Hong Kong shed 0.28 percent. Tokyo was closed for a public holiday.