Global stocks steady ahead of US data

FILE – In this Dec. 14, 2010 file photo, trader Richard Newman works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. (AP Photo, file)

LONDON (AP) — Global stock markets traded in narrow ranges Thursday as volumes dried up ahead of the Christmas break and a raft of U.S. economic data that could provide traders with some last-minute direction.

Stocks have shown little momentum in recent days due to the proximity of the Christmas/New Year break and the fact that many major indexes have returned to levels last seen before Lehman Brothers collapsed in September 2008, which plunged the financial world into crisis and contributed to a global recession.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was up 0.1 percent at 5,987.90 while Germany’s DAX rose 0.1 percent to 7,074.51. The CAC-40 in France fell 0.2 percent to 3,910.82.

Wall Street was poised for a flat opening after further gains Wednesday — Dow futures were up 3 points at 11,498 while the broader Standard Poor’s 500 futures were flat at 1,254.50.

How stocks perform on Wall Street will likely hinge on a raft of economic data due for release.

Most interest will focus on weekly jobless claims figures, November durable goods orders data and the University of Michigan’s assessment of consumer confidence in December.

“U.S. economic data could provide the little bit of Christmas magic needed to get the festivities started,” said Will Hedden, sales trader at IG Index.

Though figures Wednesday showed the U.S. economy grew by a lower than anticipated 2.6 percent annualized rate in the third quarter of the year, the general consensus remains that the U.S. economic recovery is gaining traction, partly thanks to a recent deal to extend tax cuts to all Americans.

Once Thursday’s U.S. figures are out of the way, traders will be preparing for the Christmas break, with many off until the new year. Christmas Eve on Friday is a holiday in the U.S. and Germany, and a half day in Britain and France.

The recent drive up in stocks over upbeat signs on the U.S. economic recovery, an easing in tensions in Europe’s debt crisis and greater corporate deal-making has also pushed oil prices up to 26-month highs — above $90 a barrel. Freezing winter conditions in Europe have bolstered crude’s rally.

Benchmark oil for February delivery rose 11 cents to $90.59 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In the currency markets, the euro was unchanged at $1.31 but the dollar was 0.7 percent lower at 82.95 yen.

Earlier in Asia, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index slipped 0.6 percent to 22,902.97, as worries over a possible interest rate hike in China cast a pall on the upbeat overseas news. South Korea’s Kospi also fell 0.3 percent to 2,037.50 while the Shanghai Composite index dropped 0.8 percent to 2,855.20.

Elsewhere, Australia’s SP/ASX 200 rose 0.4 percent at 4,888.20.

Japanese markets were closed for a public holiday.

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