The pan-European STOXX 600 rose just 0.1% and Frankfurt's DAX was on course for an 8% weekly drop
European stocks and commodity markets struggled to stabilise on Thursday, after a return to national lockdowns in some of the region's biggest economies triggered the most brutal global selloff in months.
Hopes that the European Central Bank will signal later it has more support to offer and a 0.5-1% bounce in Wall Street futures stemmed the rout that had wiped nearly 5% off European stocks on Wednesday, but they were still shaky.
The pan-European STOXX 600 was up only 0.1% and though Frankfurt's DAX was up 0.5%, it was firmly on course for an 8% weekly drop which will be the steepest since the initial COVID panic of March.
Concerns hit commodities too, with oil taking another 1.8% spill to leave it at its lowest since June at $38.5 a barrel.
What I think has changed in the last few days is the significant spikes in the virus in Europe and the U.S, especially the U.S., said Kempen Capital Management's Chief Investment Officer Nikesh Patel. As a result, "the W-shaped scenario for the economy has now become consensus in the market" rather than one where economies broadly stabilise.
Economic data and the ECB meeting were the day's other main focus, with gathering uncertainty about Tuesday's U.S. election also keeping investors on edge.
The Bank of Japan had made no changes to monetary policy settings as expected overnight, though it trimmed its growth forecasts to reflect sluggish services spending during summer.
Investors expect the ECB to similarly hold off on new measures, but to instead hint at action in December, which is likely to keep a lid on the euro.
The common currency hit a 10-day low on the dollar and a hundred-day low on the yen on Wednesday, before recovering slightly. It last bought $1.1752.
German government bonds, seen as Europe's principal safe-haven assets, were still in strong demand, with their yields, which move inversely to price, near seven-month lows. Benchmark U.S. 10-year yields had ticked up overnight to 0.7877%.
Given what is happening in France and Germany I think the ECB will talk about more stimulus even if they don't deliver it today, added Kempen's Patel, referring to new COVID-19 restrictions announced this week.
Global stock markets lost nearly $2 trillion yesterday, with volumes on the New York Stock Exchange up almost 40% to their highest level since September.
Overnight, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.6%, led by Australia, down 1.6%, and South Korea, down 1%.
Japan's Nikkei fell just 0.3%, while Chinese blue chips rose 0.5% and the yuan led a gentle bounce in Asian currencies against the greenback.
Asia is not really partaking in this second or third wave story because it's got its COVID largely under control, said Rob Carnell, chief economist in Asia at Dutch bank ING. As a result, domestic economies look reasonable.
In the currency markets, the U.S. dollar edged up slightly and riskier currencies remained subdued.
The dollar, which hit a nine-day high in the previous session, was up 0.1% against a basket of six currencies while the euro near a three-month low. Japan's yen was broadly steady after the Bank of Japan's subdued message on the economy.