Asian stocks fell Thursday as Japanese business confidence and Chinese manufacturing both slipped, but European shares rose as data showing the region's economic output contracted less than anticipated, AP reported. Benchmark oil rose to near $96 per barrel after a big slide the day before while the dollar rose against the euro but fell against the yen. Stock markets headed higher in early European trading. Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.7 percent to 5,404.36. Germany's DAX jumped 1.1 percent to 5,734.83 and France's CAC-40 added 0.9 percent to 3,001.80. The purchasing managers' index published by financial data company Markit showed eurozone manufacturing and services output contracting for a fourth month in December, although at the slowest rate since September. The composite output index stood at 47.9 in December, up from 47.0 in November. "The December Eurozone purchasing managers’ surveys are better than feared and show welcome, much-needed improvement. However, the likelihood remains that Eurozone GDP will contract in the fourth quarter, even if the decline may not be as has been feared," said Howard Archer of IHS Global Insight in a report. But stocks faced strong headwinds earlier in Asia as business confidence fell in Japan and Chinese manufacturing data showed a contraction, although at a slower rate. Japan's Nikkei 225 index shed 1.7 percent to close at 8,377.37, a three-week low. South Korea's Kospi lost 2.1 percent to 1,819.11 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng tumbled 1.8 percent to 18,026.84. Mainland Chinese shares lost ground for a sixth straight trading day, with the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index falling 2.1 percent to 2,180.90, while the Shenzhen Composite Index lost 2.3 percent to 886.01. Japan's strong yen has hit multiple historic highs this year against the dollar, making business conditions difficult for Japan's export-reliant economy. On Wall Street, stocks plummeted Wednesday amid a growing sense that Europe's leaders have failed to contain that region's debt crisis. Since European leaders reached an agreement to rein in future government budget deficits last week, investors and credit rating agencies have criticized the deal for failing to address current problems. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 1.1 percent to close at 11,823.48 on Wednesday. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 1.1 percent to 1,211.82. The Nasdaq fell 1.6 percent to 2,539.31. Benchmark oil for January delivery was up 76 cents at $95.71 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract declined $5.19 to finish at $94.95 per barrel on the Nymex. In currency trading, the euro slipped to $1.2975 from $1.2977 late Wednesday in New York. The dollar slipped to 77.92 yen from 78.07 yen.