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Dec 24, 2014 8:17 AM

European stocks drift as markets close for Xmas

The Associated Press

LONDON (AP) European markets closed early Wednesday for the Christmas break, largely uninspired by another landmark achievement by the Dow Jones index, which ended the previous session above 18,000 for the first time.

KEEPING SCORE: In Europe, Britain's FTSE ended 0.2 percent higher at 6,609.93, while the CAC-40 in France fell 0.4 percent to 4,295.85. German markets were closed. Europe's main markets are not set to re-open until Monday. Wall Street looked set for a flat session later, with Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures up 0.1 percent. The U.S. session is shortened too ahead of the Christmas break.

ANALYST TAKE: "With much of Europe out of action already, volumes are thinner than the spread on Scrooge's Christmas table," said Chris Beauchamp, market analyst at IG.

DOW RECORD: The main focus in markets ahead of the Christmas holiday was whether the Dow could breach the 18,000 mark for the first time. On Tuesday, it duly did, in another indication of the optimism that's sweeping U.S. investors following a run of solid economic data. Notably, the Commerce Department reported that the economy grew at a 5 percent annual rate in July-September. That's the highest tick in 11 years.

THE DAY IN ASIA: In Asia, trading was more active as most markets don't celebrate Christmas. Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 1.2 percent to 17,854.23 as the Japanese yen slipped against the U.S. dollar. South Korea's Kospi rose 0.3 percent to 1,946.61. Hong Kong's Hang Seng edged 0.1 percent higher to 23,349.34. But the Shanghai Composite Index dropped 2.0 percent to 2,972.53.

CURRENCIES: Trading was subdued in the currency markets, with the euro up 0.2 percent at $1.2212 and the dollar down 0.2 percent at 120.38 yen.

ENERGY: Oil prices gave up gains made in the aftermath of the U.S. economic growth data. Benchmark U.S. crude oil slipped $1.32 to $55.80 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the international standard, was down $1.48 at $60.21 a barrel. Oil prices have been a major focus in markets over the past few weeks as they have fallen by about a half since the summer.


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