PARIS - World stock markets struggled to find direction Wednesday despite mostly encouraging economic data from the U.S. and eurozone.
Eurostat, the EU's statistics office,
said retail sales in the eurozone jumped 1.4 percent in November, far more than
expected, while the unemployment rate held steady at 12.1 percent for the
eighth month running.
Although the figures suggest the
eurozone recovery might pick up, the bloc still faces big problems -- the
unemployment rate is at a record high and there are huge disparities across the
By late morning in Europe, France's
CAC-40 was down 0.3 percent 4,251, while the DAX in Germany dropped 0.2 percent
9,491. Britain's FTSE index fell 0.3 percent to 6,736.
The euro fell slightly to $1.3588,
although that price is still quite high.
"While signs of stabilizing labor
markets is relatively encouraging, unemployment remains worryingly high across
the eurozone and it seems unlikely to come down markedly any time soon,"
said Howard Archer, chief European economist at IHS Global Insight.
"Economic activity will likely remain too limited in the near term at
least to generate many jobs."
Earlier, Asian stocks mostly rose.
Asian traders tend to be very sensitive to the U.S. economy, and there are
signs that it's picking up steam. A decline in the U.S. trade deficit for November, which was partly due to increased domestic oil production, has raised
expectations that fourth quarter economic growth will be higher than 3 percent.
Tokyo's Nikkei 225 gained 1.9 percent,
closing at 16,121.45 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 1.3 percent to 22,996.59.
Benchmarks in India, Southeast Asia and Taiwan also rose. China's Shanghai
Composite lost early gains, closing 0.2 percent lower at 2,044.34.
Later Wednesday, payroll processor ADP
issues its report on U.S. job growth among private companies for December. That
will give investors more information about how the American economy is faring.
Ahead of those numbers, the U.S.
market looked ready to open fairly flat. Dow futures were down 0.1 percent at 16,446, while S&P futures fell the same rate to 1,829.
In one sign there is hope the global
economy is improving, energy prices rose Wednesday. Benchmark crude was up 12
cents to $93.79.