Stock prices around the world have fallen on disappointing earnings, while the yen has jumped after Bank of Japan chief Haruhiko Kuroda said he saw no need to use "helicopter money" to boost the world's No. 3 economy.
Thursday's retreat in equity markets rekindled some safe-haven bids for US Treasuries and other government debt, whose yields had risen from record lows linked to Britain's stunning vote to leave the European Union a month ago.
"The market is just tired," said Stephen Massocca, chief investment officer of Wedbush Equity Management in San Francisco. "It's had a massive move in a straight line and so it is only natural to see some pullback here."
Oil prices declined after a rise in US petrol inventories pushed petroleum stockpiles to a record high, feeding uneasiness about a persisting global supply glut.
Dow and S&P stock indexes retreated from record highs as Intel reported slowing revenue growth at its key data centre, while European shares fell on weakness in airlines, led by a profit warning from Lufthansa.
The Dow Jones industrial average unofficially closed down 77.8 points, or 0.42 percent, at 18,517.23, the S&P 500 ended 7.85 points, or 0.36 percent, lower at 2,165.17 and the Nasdaq Composite finished down 16.03 points, or 0.31 percent, to 5,073.90.
Europe's broad FTSEurofirst 300 index edged down 0.07 percent at 1,344.13.
The MSCI world equity index, which tracks shares in 45 nations, fell 0.39 points or 0.09 percent, to 412.43.
It faded from nine-month highs, cooled by signals from BOJ's Kuroda that its next shot of stimulus will not include hand-out 'helicopter money," effectively giving cash directly to the population, in a BBC radio interview.
The yen had earlier touched a six-week low against the dollar and the Nikkei rose to a six-week high on reports of a 20-trillion-plus-yen Japanese stimulus package.
The Japanese currency, however, reversed course on Kuroda's remarks. It was last up 1.0 percent at 105.74 yen per dollar and 1.2 percent stronger versus the euro at 116.53 yen.
The euro held steady against the greenback in a choppy session after the European Central Bank opted to keep its record-low interest rates on hold, as expected.
ECB President Mario Draghi said the bank would take time to assess the impact of Britain's decision to leave the EU.
"It's a prudent path until they see more data," said Minh Trang, senior currency trader at Silicon Valley Bank in Santa Clara, California.
The euro was up fractionally at US$1.1017 after trading from US$1.0981 to US$1.1058.
The US 10-year Treasury yield ended down two basis points at 1.558 percent after hitting a near four-week high earlier Thursday.
In the oil market, Brent crude settled down 97 cents, or 2.06 percent, at U$S46.20 (NZ$66.01) a barrel. US crude settled down US$1, or 2.19 percent, at US$44.75 per barrel.
Gold prices rebounded from a three-week low after the ECB left rates alone. Spot prices rose US$16.45 or 1.25 percent, to US$1,331.96 an ounce