Global equities marked time while the dollar dipped Monday after US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen downplayed fears over the prospect of higher interest rates triggered by a spike in inflation.
Investors also weighed moves over the weekend by the G7 group of wealthy nations towards an eventual global minimum corporate tax rate aimed firmly at tech giants seen as not paying enough.
Wall Street ended mostly in the red, though the tech-rich Nasdaq gained ground, while London and Paris closed barely positive and Frankfurt lost a sliver after Asia had finished mixed.
US oil prices sneaked above $70 per-barrel for the first time in two-and-a-half years as the pandemic-hit global economy pushes on with its recovery, but then retreated later in the session.
"Inflation remains squarely in focus and the largest potential source of investors' angst and market volatility this week," noted Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com.
While optimism about the global economic recovery and vaccine roll-outs have spurred markets, trading floors remain worried that the rebound will cause strong price rises and in turn force the US Federal Reserve and other central banks to "taper" stimulus measures and raise borrowing costs.
"Until the Federal Reserve is more vocal about tapering, investors will be happy to continue buying the dips in stocks and sell the rips in the dollar," remarked Fawad Razaqzada, market analyst with ThinkMarkets.
- Eyes on inflation -
Razqzada said any noticeable pickup in consumer prices "could hurt risk appetite somewhat as it may lead to speculation over tapering".
Yellen told Bloomberg News that US President Joe Biden should push ahead with his $4.0 trillion recovery plan for the world's top economy even if it triggers high inflation that leads to interest rate rises.
Yellen said any inflation spike in reaction to Biden's plan would be transitory and that higher interest rates would actually be positive.
"If we ended up with a slightly higher interest rate environment, it would actually be a plus from society's point of view and the Fed's point of view," the former Federal Reserve chair said in an interview Sunday with Bloomberg.
"We've been fighting inflation that's too low and interest rates that are too low now for a decade," she added.
While higher rates raise the cost of borrowing for governments, businesses and individuals, they boost the profits of banks and other lenders and increase the value of individual savings.
Yellen spoke after returning from a meeting of G7 finance ministers which endorsed a global minimum corporate tax rate of at least 15 percent, rallying behind a US-backed plan targeting tech giants and other multinationals.
Meanwhile, traders shrugged off lower-than-expected Chinese trade growth figures for May, as imports still expanded at the fastest pace in more than a decade, up by 51 percent from the same month a year earlier.
- Key figures at 2100 GMT -
New York - Dow: DOWN 0.4 percent at 34,630.24 (close)
New York - S&P 500: DOWN 0.1 percent at 4,226.52 (close)
New York - Nasdaq: UP 0.5 percent at 13,881.72 (close)
EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.2 percent at 4097.65 (close)
London - FTSE 100: UP 0.1 percent at 7,077.85 (close)
Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 0.1 percent at 15,677.15 (close)
Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.4 percent at 6,543.56 (close)
Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.3 percent at 29,019.24 (close)
Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: DOWN 0.5 percent at 28,787.28 (close)
Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.2 percent at 3,599.54 (close)
Euro/dollar: UP at $1.2191 from $1.2129 at 2130 GMT Friday
Pound/dollar: UP at $1.4181 from $1.4104
Euro/pound: DOWN at 85.94 pence from 85.96 pence
Dollar/yen: DOWN at 109.26 yen from 110.30 yen
Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.6 percent at $71.47 per barrel
West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.6 percent at $69.22 per barrel