More recently, better-than-expected results from companies reporting quarterly results have helped keep US stock indexes hovering near record highs or notching new ones.
Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 rose 0.8% to finish at 28,756.86. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong fell 0.6% to 29,749.58.
Other reports on the economy were more encouraging on Thursday, including better-than-expected data on the homebuilding industry and manufacturing in the Philadelphia region. The elevated numbers raise the risk the US could post a second straight month of net job losses.
Among individual European stocks, Siemens rose 6.2% after the German engineering company said preliminary quarterly results were broadly ahead of market expectations.
The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq pared some losses after the opening bell as data showed USA manufacturing activity surprisingly surged to its highest level in more than 13-1/2-years in early January amid strong growth in new orders.
The S&P 500 was 0.7% higher at 3,827.31 in early trading, brushing above its record of 3,824.68 set earlier this month.
Investors also remain focused on the 46th president's proposed $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package, a day after he took office.
Futures tied to the S&P 500 fell 0.7%, indicating the benchmark gauge may open lower after megacap technology companies pushed it to its fourth record close of the new year Thursday.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 179.03 points, or 0.57 percent, to 30,996.98.
Shares of the world's largest streaming service surged 13% in premarket trading, helping boost futures tracking the broader tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 index.
The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies added 27.34 points, or 1.3%, to 2,168.76. IBM nevertheless also reported a higher-than-expected profit.
"(Today was) just a reminder that the tech run had gotten extended. the FAANG names and some of the other S&P 500 tech names are still incredible operators and are going to be putting out incredible earnings quarters for the foreseeable future", Mayfield said. But the vast majority of the earliest reports have managed to top forecasts.
Netflix jumped 13.5% for one of the market's biggest gains after it said it ended past year with more than 200 million subscribers for the first time. The bump for stocks between Election Day and Biden's inauguration was bigger than Trump's bump between his election and inauguration.
The S&P 500 is up 97 points, or 2.6%. "Because interest rates and inflation haven't accelerated, this is giving him confidence that he could do even more", said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors in Boston. The low rates, along with new stimulus and the continued rollout of vaccines, will likely help bolster markets and the recovery.
"It is of course a risk that this locomotive in Asia could be hurt by this, but we think they have it under control", he said.
In energy trading, benchmark USA crude gained 26 cents to USD53.24 a barrel.