While U.S. markets were closed Monday for the Labor Day holiday, European shares drifted lower as tensions over Ukraine simmered and Asian stock markets mostly rose on expectations of stimulus in China after manufacturing growth slowed in August. In morning trading, France's CAC-40 was down 0.3 percent at 4,369.03 and Germany's DAX was off 0.1 percent at 9,463.43. Britain's FTSE 100 shed 0.2 percent to 6,809.67.
On Friday, the S&P 500 index rose 0.3 percent to close at 2003. It was its fourth record high in five day, causing investors to wonder if it's time to take profits. But the S&P's hardly on a tear. It traded close to the 2,000 point range all last week.
The Dow Jones industrial average is also near a record high, but has been taking a breather. It closed last Friday at 17,098 after trading near the 17,100 range all week.
Investor confidence has risen following several months of strong growth in hiring and corporate profits and a series of major corporate acquisitions. The latest update on the labor market due out Friday is expected to show relatively firm conditions.
U.S. investors also remain concerned about the crisis in Ukraine. Two prominent U.S. senators said Sunday that the Obama administration should push for tougher sanctions on Russia, which is accused of supporting pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, and also send weapons to help Ukraine defend itself. The rebels have renewed their offensive in the past week, reclaiming parts of areas they'd previously ceded in fighting with Ukrainian troops and opening up an additional front.
China's Shanghai Composite rose 0.8 percent to 2,235.51 points and Tokyo's Nikkei 225 added 0.3 percent to 15,476.60. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was marginally higher, adding 0.04 percent to 24,752.09. India's Sensex gained 0.7 percent to 5,629.80. Taiwan, Sydney and Jakarta also rose.
Two surveys showed China's manufacturing growth slowed in August as export demand and investment weakened, raising expectations Beijing might launch more stimulus. HSBC Corp. said its purchasing manufacturers index fell to 50.2 from July's 18-month high of 51.7 on a 100-point scale on which numbers above 50 show an expansion. An official industry group, the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing, said its separate PMI declined to 51.1 from 51.7.
The manufacturing slowdown adds to signs that China's "economy still faces considerable downside risks to growth in the second half of the year, which warrant further policy easing to ensure a steady growth recovery," said HSBC economist Hongbin Qu.
Investors looked ahead to Thursday's meeting of the European Central Bank for signs of possible stimulus. Bank chief Mario Draghi called in a speech last month for fiscal policies to support growth, a departure from the ECB's implicit support for austerity. No immediate steps were expected but the bank has begun work on a program to buy asset-backed securities.
U.S. benchmark crude for October was down 31 cents at $95.65 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract surged $1.41 on Friday to close at $95.96.
The dollar rose to 104.18 yen from Friday's closing of 104.04. The euro declined to $1.3121 from the previous session's $1.3136.