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World Stocks Wobble As Investors Grow Cautious Over Outlook

World shares were mostly lower Friday after Wall Street wobbled to a nearly flat finish, though the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq composite still logged record highs.

Most Asian markets were closed to mark the Lunar New Year.

Investors are hoping for a new round of U.S. government aid as the economic recovery falters. The latest U.S. government report on jobless claims reaffirmed that employment remains a weak spot in the economy, even as vaccine distribution ramps up in the hopes of eventually ending the pandemic.

Germany’s DAX lost 0.5% to 13,969.12 and the CAC 40 in Paris shed 0.3% to 5,654.03. Britain’s FTSE 100 declined 0.6% to 6,487.02. Wall Street looked set for a slow start, with the futures contracts for the S&P 500 and the Dow industrials down 0.3%.

In Asian trading, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index edged 0.1% lower, to 29,520.07 and the A&P/ASX 200 declined 0.6% to 6,806.70. India’s Sensex lost 0.2% to 51,427.04.

Weak economic data are serving to fog up the glass,” Stephen Innes of Axi said in a commentary.

Global markets continue to trade mixed echoing that somber data view as participation remains muted, suggesting that investors need a bit more cajoling by more all clear economic smoke signals on the horizon before getting back in the saddle,” Innes said.

Investors had been encouraged by solid corporate earnings and signs of a decline in new virus cases.

Another day of choppy trading on Wall Street left the major U.S. stock indexes nearly flat on Thursday, though the S&P 500 and Nasdaq composite still snagged all-time highs.

The S&P 500 rose 0.2% to 3,916.38. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped less than 0.1% to 31,430.70 a day after setting a record high. The tech-heavy Nasdaq gained 0.4%, to 14,025.77. Its previous all-time high was Tuesday.

Small company stocks notched gains. The Russell 2000 index added 0.1% to 2,285.32. The index is up 15.7% so far this year, while the S&P 500 is up 4.3%.

The yield on 10-year Treasury notes was steady at 1.15% after touching 1.20% earlier this week.

Democrats in Congress are working on a potential $1.9 trillion relief package that would include direct payments to people and more jobless aid as unemployment remains stubbornly high.

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell slightly last week to 793,000. The job market improved somewhat last summer but has slowed since the fall. Nearly 10 million jobs have been lost to the pandemic.

In other trading, U.S. benchmark crude lost 59 cents to $57.65 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gave up 44 cents overnight to $58.24. Brent crude, the international standard, shed 56 cents to $60.58 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar rose to 105.00 Japanese yen from 104.75 yen. The euro slipped to $1.2108 from $1.2131.

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