Global Markets Little Changed in Holiday-Shortened Session

Christmas NYSE

European stocks ended flat on Thursday, while US markets traded choppy in a holiday-shortened session before Christmas.

The pan-European STOXX 600 Index was little changed on Thursday, closing down 0.1%. London’s FTSE 100 Index added 0.2%. Several European markets remained closed on Thursday, including the German DAX.

European energy shares continued to trade higher, with Statoil ASA adding 5.2%. The energy markets received a big push on Wednesday after oil prices rebounded more than 4%.

Meanwhile, US stock markets traded choppy, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average declining 0.2%. The benchmark gauge posted triple-digit gains in each of its previous two sessions. The S&P 500 Index was also down slightly, while the Nasdaq Composite posted a modest gain.

Both US and European markets will be closed on Friday for Christmas. The markets will reopen on Monday.

In economic data news, US jobless claims declined more than forecast last week, adding yet another sign of a firming labour market.

The number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment fell by 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 267,000 for the week ended December 19, the Labor Department said. That wasn’t far off from a 42-year low, official data showed.

With last week’s drop, US jobless claims have remained below the key 300,000 threshold for 42 consecutive weeks, the longest stretch since the 1970s.

In commodities, oil prices continued to recover on Thursday after coming off 11-year lows in the previous session. Global benchmark Brent crude added 39 cents or 1% to $37.75 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe. The West Texas Intermediate (WTI) benchmark for US crude also jumped 32 cents or 0.9% to $37.82 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Precious metals also traded higher, with gold prices recovering from a two-day drop. Gold for February delivery climbed $6.20 or 0.6% to %1,074.50 per troy ounce. The yellow metal had rallied to a three-week high of $1,080.60 per ounce earlier in the week.

Silver futures also climbed 7 cents or 0.5% to $14.36 per ounce. Platinum spot rose $9.23 or 1.1% to $877.93 per pound.

Demand for gold and other precious metals weighed on the US dollar, which has declined in four of the past five sessions. The dollar index, a weighted average of the US currency against a basket of six rivals, slipped 0.4% to 97.97.

The dollar fell against the euro, with the EUR/USD exchange rate adding 0.4% to 1.0951. The pair is looking to test the 1.0964 resistance before taking the psychological 1.1000 level. On the downside, initial support is likely found at 1.0876.