European stocks climbed and U.S. stock futures swung between gains and losses after a handful of European governments banned short-selling of financial stocks.
Britain's FTSE 100 gained 1.4 per cent, France's CAC 40 1.7 per cent and Germany's DAX 1.9 per cent.
France, Italy, Spain and Belgium imposed the ban, while Britain, the Netherlands and Austria said they saw no need for action and Germany remained silent.
France will ban short-selling of 11 financial stocks for 15 days, Spain will protect 16 stocks for 15 days, while Belgium will ban short-selling of four financial stocks for an indefinite period. Details of the Italian ban were not immediately clear.
Investors should expect strong measures from France and Germany to address governance of the euro zone economy in the weeks ahead, after a meeting of President Nicolas Sarkozy and Chancellor Angela Merkel scheduled for next Tuesday, French Finance Minister Francois Baroin said.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has called an emergency cabinet meeting on Friday to adopt measures expected to include tax hikes and spending cuts to shore up confidence in Italy’s strained public finances.
U.S. stock futures were slightly lower about two and a half hours before markets opened. Dow futures dipped 0.2 per cent, while S&P 500 futures edged 0.3 per cent lower. The Dow leapt 4 per cent and the S&P 500 4.6 per cent on Thursday, thanks to a positive report on employment.
Japan's Nikkei dipped 0.2 per cent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng ended just 0.1 per cent higher. Debt markets are wondering which country’s rating is next on the chopping block after Standard & Poor’s stripped the United States of its top-notch triple-A credit rating -- and speculation is growing that Moody’s could downgrade heavily indebted Japan as early as this month.
The Canadian dollar traded at $1.0122 (U.S.).
Crude oil declined 34 cents to $85.38 a barrel.
Gold gained more than 1 per cent to $1,770.90, then eased to $1,754.80.