Buying sentiment was also expected to take a hit as other data indicated slowing American job growth.
The Canadian dollar was down 0.27 of a cent to 101.17 cents US.
U.S. futures were lower after payroll firm ADP reported that the American economy cranked out only 119,000 private sector jobs during April, well below the consensus estimate of 170,000. The report was released two days before the non-farm payrolls report for April comes out. Economists are looking for the economy to have created about 160,000 jobs last month.
The Dow Jones industrial futures declined 53 points to 13,165, the Nasdaq futures were down 14 points to 2,704.5 and the S&P 500 futures slipped 7.2 points to 1,393.2.
Prices for oil and metals backtracked amid reports showing that manufacturing activity across the eurozone shrank at a faster pace than previously estimated in April.
The final April Markit purchasing managers index fell to 45.9 from a reading of 47.7 in March and was below an earlier estimate of 46. A reading of less than 50 indicates a contraction in activity.
The data showed accelerating downturns for Italy, Spain and Greece.
But even eurozone powerhouse Germany saw shrinking activity as its manufacturing PMI fell to a 33-month low at 46.2.
"Now it is only the first month of the quarter but this is clearly a bad start and if maintained, suggests a deepening second quarterly decline in economic activity (aka: recession)," said BMO Capital Markets senior economist Jennifer Lee.
"And that is bad news for the region that just reported a 10.9 per cent unemployment rate in March, a level not seen in 15 years."
Also depressing commodity prices was a survey of purchasing managers by HSBC which shows China's manufacturing contracted in April for the sixth straight month. HSBC said Wednesday that its purchasing managers index for April was 49.3, up from 48.3 in April. The index has remained below 50, the level indicating expansion, since October.
The HSBC survey tends to reflect private and export-sector activity more strongly than an official index released Tuesday that showed manufacturing gaining last month.
Demand concerns sent the June crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange down 54 cents to US$105.62 a barrel.
Prices for copper, viewed as an economic bellwether since the metal is used in so many industries, also fell with the May contract down seven cents to US$3.77 a pound.
Bullion prices were also lower with the June contract falling $4.50 to US$1,657.90 an ounce.
North American stock markets racked up gains Tuesday thanks to a surprisingly big rebound in a closely watched U.S. manufacturing survey.
The Institute for Supply Management reported that U.S. manufacturing expanded last month at its strongest pace since June, with orders, hiring and production all up.
European bourses were mixed with London's FTSE 100 index down 0.57 per cent. Markets in Germany and France were closed Tuesday and moved higher in response to the American manufacturing data. Frankfurt's DAX added 0.15 per cent and the Paris CAC 40 gained 0.68 per cent.
Earlier in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.7 per cent while Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained one per cent.
Mainland Chinese shares advanced after authorities said that China's two stock exchanges would cut fees charged for trading yuan-denominated shares by 25 per cent from June 1. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index rose 1.8 per cent and the Shenzhen Composite Index gained 1.7 per cent.
There was plenty of earnings news for traders to focus on.
Barrick Gold Corp. (TSX:ABX) reported Wednesday that quarterly net earnings came in at $1.03 billion, or $1.03 per share, up from US$1 billion or $1 per share a year earlier. Revenue improved to $3.6 billion from $3.1 billion, largely as a result of higher gold prices. Barrick is also raising its dividend 33 per cent to 20 cents a share. Barrick's adjusted profit was US$1.11 a share, which missed analyst estimates by two cents.
Electricity and natural gas distributor Fortis Inc. (TSX:FTS) reported quarterly net earnings of $121 million or 64 cents per common share. That compared with $116 million, or 66 cents per share in the first quarter of 2011.
Loblaw Companies Limited (TSX: L) says its first-quarter profit was down 22 per cent from the same time last year but its outlook for 2012 remains unchanged. The grocery company's net income fell by $36 million to $126 million or 45 cents per share, before adjustments. Revenue was up about one per cent, rising just above $6.9 billion for the quarter ended March 24.
On Tuesday after the close, Yamana Gold Inc. (TSX:YRI) reported earnings of US$170 million or 23 cents per share for its latest quarter, up from $148.2 million or 20 cents per share a year ago. Revenue totalled $559.7 million, up from $476.1 million.
Insurance and investment firm Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. (TSX:FFH) cut its losses to US$1.3 million or 69 cents a share in the first quarter compared with a loss of $240.6 million a year ago. Revenue was $1.8 billion versus $1.81 billion year-over-year. The average analyst estimate had been for a loss of $3.10 per share and revenue of $1.56 billion for the first three months of 2012, according to Thomson Reuters.