Asian shares fell but European benchmarks edged higher Thursday as caution set in over company earnings reports, recent choppy trading in technology stocks and prospects for more economic stimulus for a world battling a pandemic.
France’s CAC 40 rose 0.5% to 5,591.22 and Germany’s DAX added 0.5% to 14,004.17. Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.6% to 6,548.01. U.S. shares were set to drift higher with Dow futures inching up less than 0.1% to 30,638.5. S&P 500 futures were also up by nearly 0.1%, at 3,826.62.
Also on market players’ minds is the global vaccine rollout, which is becoming more organized in the U.S., but has yet to play out in much of Asia, except for China, where the pandemic started.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 slipped 1.1% to finish at 28,341.95, while South Korea’s Kospi dropped 1.4% to 3,087.55. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 slipped 0.9% to 6,765.50. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 0.7% to 29,113.50, while the Shanghai Composite was down 0.4% to 3,501.86.
Stocks have been mostly rallying this week, an encouraging start to February after a late fade in January as volatility spiked amid worries about the timing and scope of another round of stimulus spending by the Biden administration, unease over the effectiveness of the government’s coronavirus vaccine distribution and turbulent swings in GameStop and other stocks hyped on social media.
Wall Street ended Wednesday with modest gains, with the S&P 500 up 0.1%, at 3,830.17. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.1% to 30,723.60. The tech-heavy Nasdaq slipped less than 0.1%, to 13,610.54. The index briefly surpassed its all-time high set last week.
Democrats and Republicans remain far apart on support for President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package, but investors are betting that the administration will opt for a reconciliation process to get the legislation through Congress.
In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude gained 39 cents to $56.08 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It picked up 93 cents to $55.69 per barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude, the international standard, added 39 cents to $58.85 a barrel.
In currency trading, the U.S. dollar inched up to 105.16 Japanese yen from 105.01 yen. The euro cost $1.2010, down from $1.2035.