gauge of world equities was little changed after giving up early gains on Thursday, continuing a pattern seen for the past several sessions, while the euro eased after the European Central Bank formally ended its bond purchasing scheme.
In the United States, the S&P and Nasdaq finished in the red while the Dow closed well off its session highs as cautious trade optimism faded. Nervousness has heightened volatility in stocks recently, with a tendency for stocks to lose morning gains as the day wears on.
In Beijing, a commerce ministry spokesman said China and the United States were in close contact over trade, and any U.S. trade delegation would be welcome to visit.
Although signs of a trade thaw have been welcomed by investors, other worries have kept stocks from sustaining gains.
“It’s a market that’s been very nervous. Investors get excited in the morning and then their fears come back,” said Omar Aguilar, chief investment officer of equities at Charles Schwab Investment Management in San Francisco.
“We need a catalyst to get us a more consistent trend - it could be good economic data or more clarity on the Fed’s intentions for next year or more certainty in U.S.-China. I don’t think it’s going to happen any time soon.”
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 70.11 points, or 0.29 per cent, to 24,597.38, the S&P 500 lost 0.53 points, or 0.02 per cent, to 2,650.54 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 27.98 points, or 0.39 per cent, to 7,070.33.
Canada’s main stock index finished slightly lower on Thursday, as marijuana producers pushed health care stocks lower
The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was unofficially down 32.71 points, or 0.22 per cent, at 14,750.35.
Health care stocks dropped 3.7 per cent as Aphria Inc. fell 9.5 per cent. Rivals Aurora Cannabis Inc. and Canopy Growth Corp. lost 6.6 per cent and 4.1 per cent, respectively.
Energy stocks dipped 0.1 per cent despite a rise in oil prices. Imperial Oil Ltd. Suncor Energy Inc. declined 2 per cent and 1.1 per cent, respectively, while Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. lost 0.7 per cent.
U.S. economic data showed initial jobless claims fell last week to near 49-year lows, while import prices dropped as the cost of petroleum products tumbled.
Shares in Europe edged lower to snap a two-session win streak, as concerns about Britain’s exit from the European Union and euro-zone growth outweighed a budget compromise in Italy.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index lost 0.17 per cent and MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe shed 0.17 per cent.
Britain’s weakened prime minister, Theresa May, survived a late night no-confidence vote, and then said she did not expect a quick breakthrough in Brexit talks that would help get the deal through parliament.
The European Central Bank officially ended its post-crisis asset purchase program but promised to keep feeding stimulus into an economy struggling with an unexpected slowdown and political turmoil.
The euro and sterling were choppy on Brexit uncertainty and in the wake of comments from ECB President Mario Draghi following a central bank announcement investors viewed as dovish.
The dollar index rose 0.03 per cent, with the euro down 0.05 per cent to $1.1362.
Sterling, rebounding from earlier declines, was last trading at $1.2651, up 0.17 per cent on the day.
Oil prices climbed more than 2 per cent on Thursday, after data showed inventory declines in the United States and as investors began to expect that the global oil market could have a deficit sooner than they had previously thought.
OPEC’s output agreement with Russia and Canada’s decision to mandate production cuts could create an oil market supply deficit by the second quarter of next year, if top producers stick to the deal, the International Energy Agency said in its monthly Oil Market Report.
U.S. crude inventories at Cushing, Okla., the delivery point for U.S. crude futures, fell by nearly 822,000 barrels in the week through Dec. 11, traders said, citing data from market intelligence firm Genscape.
Brent crude settled $1.30, or 2.16 per cent, higher at $61.45 per barrel while U.S. light crude rose $1.43, or 2.8 per cent, to end the session at $52.58 a barrel.
“Other than some additional bullish statement out of the Saudis or Russians regarding strict adherence to last week’s agreement or a supply disruption somewhere around the globe, we don’t expect any headlines capable of pushing oil values much above this month’s highs even when stretching a view through year’s end,” Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch and Associates, said in a note.