While most major economies are expected to keep growing, evidence is mounting that many around the world are struggling to expand as fast as they did last year. European governments are struggling with debts and squeezed budgets. High unemployment, depressed real estate and still-high oil prices are slowing the U.S. economy. In China, interest-rate hikes designed to reduce inflation are slowing growth.
In Europe, tensions are high over Greece's debt load and the lack of political agreement over how to reduce it. The EU has said that a cross-party consensus on new austerity measures is vital for the country to get more help.
Traders remained wary on Monday, despite reports that European officials are preparing new support measures.
Lorenzo Bini Smaghi, a member of the European Central Bank's executive board, was quoted by the Financial Times as saying Greece could get as much as €70 billion more to help its finances through 2013. The help would include larger privatizations but €20 billion could also come from fellow eurozone nations.
The report failed to help the euro much, which hovered at $1.4288, about the same as Friday.
"The trials and tribulations of the eurozone periphery remain the center of attention," wrote Mitul Kotecha, analyst at Credit Agricole CIB, in a note to investors. "Markets will likely remain nervous in this environment, and it is difficult to see risk appetite improving to any major degree."
In stock markets, Germany's DAX edged up 0.4 percent at 7,190.66, while France's CAC 40 was 0.1 percent higher at 3,954.10. British markets were closed for a bank holiday. Wall Street was likewise to remain shut for the Memorial Day holiday.
In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average slipped 0.2 percent to close at 9,504.97 as a stronger yen hurt the country's exporters. Many of them are already struggling with power outages and parts shortages in the aftermath of March's devastating earthquake and tsunami.
The dollar weakened to 80.84 yen from 80.91 yen.
Mainland Chinese shares edged lower on speculation authorities may be preparing to raise interest rates again soon to counter inflation.
The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.1 percent to 2,706.36, after gaining 0.7 percent earlier in the day. The Shenzhen Composite Index of China's smaller, second exchange lost 1 percent to 1,090.50.
In the U.S., a key measure of consumer confidence rose unexpectedly this month, helping to boost Wall Street on Friday.
The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment index rose to 74.3 in May, above analysts' estimates of 70. Concerns about higher gas prices and inflation knocked the gauge down in March and April.
Gas prices have come down in May after reaching nearly $4 last month, giving a lift to the closely watched measure of how people feel about the economy. That raised hopes that people might be willing to spend more.
Benchmark oil for July delivery was down 45 cents to $100.14 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The benchmark contract added 36 cents to settle at $100.59 on Friday.