The dollar edged up from a 17-month low against the yen on Wednesday, and buffeted European share prices benefited from a rebound in oil to move off their lowest level in over a month.
With Asian trading subdued, the mood persisted in Europe as share prices struggled to build on some early momentum provided by oil's biggest rise in three weeks and takeover talk in the pharmaceuticals sector.
Wall Street was expected to claw back some of the 1% the S&P 500 lost on Tuesday.
Attention was firmly on the release later on Wednesday of the minutes from last month's U.S. Federal Reserve monetary policy meeting and any new clues on how many interest rate hikes might be expected this year, following some mixed signals from some of the Fed's officials.
Though the dollar nudged off its lows against the yen, it was still limping after comments from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that countries should avoid trying to weaken currencies with "arbitrary intervention".
The yen remained in bullish form, down less than 0.1% against the dollar at 110.34 yen and within striking distance of 109.92, its lowest level since October 2014.
"I think the market is trying to find an equilibrium here," said National Australia Bank FX strategist Gavin Friend.
"The dovishness of Janet Yellen (Federal Reserve chair) has pushed rate hike pricing right out, so every time you get stronger data or stronger comments from the Fed you have this push-me, pull-me situation that buffets markets."
The dollar was making better headway against other currencies. It pushed both the euro and the pound down 0.3% to $1.1350 and 1.4092 respectively and was up 0.3% on a broader basket of currencies.
German data showing a fall in German industrial output did not help the euro either, though the fall in the figures was smaller than economists had been expecting, a relief after February orders data had disappointed the day before.
In bond markets, the bounce in oil and modest lift in risk appetite halted the push of German Bund yields towards zero.
"Bund strength looks set to run into resistance with 10-year yields approaching last year's memorable tipping point," Commerzbank rate strategist Rainer Guntermann said.
The 10-year U.S. Treasuries yield was also edging higher ahead of the Fed minutes, having hit a five-week low of 1.715% the previous day.
But as for much of the last year, oil was the main driver of most of the market moves.
Crude prices extended their rebound as major oil producers continued to drip-feed hopes they could agree to freeze output later this month even without Iran which is still trying to get back on its feet after years of sanctions.
Russian sources told Reuters it believed $45-$50 per barrel was an acceptable price for the oil market to re-balance and said there were now discussions on how long to freeze production and how to monitor it.
"A freeze without Iran is being discussed. At the moment we don't see tough conditions (from others) for Iran to join," one of the sources added.
The market was also helped by data on U.S. crude supply-demand for last week from industry group American Petroleum Institute (API) showing a surprise fall of 4.3 million barrels in inventories in the week to April 1, versus an expected weekly increase of 3.2 million barrels. <API/S>
Brent crude futures jumped 2.5 percent to $38.80 per barrel, off a one-month low of $37.27 hit on Tuesday, while U.S. crude futures rose 3.2% to $37.05 a barrel, the biggest rise since March 22.
Overnight in Asia, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan had ended the day barely in positive territory after falling to its lowest level since March. 16.
South Africa hogged the rest of the emerging market spotlight. The rand fell around 1 percent against the dollar to one-week lows, extending losses of more than 2% racked up on Tuesday when President Jacob Zuma defeated an impeachment vote.
The renewed selling was triggered by comments from Standard & Poor's that weak economic growth remained a pressure point on the sovereign's rating, as it revised downwards its forecast for 2016 growth in South Africa.
"The market doesn't have many chances to be surprised on the positive side," said Cristian Maggio, head of EM strategy at TD Securities, adding he still thought the rand was overvalued.