World stocks mixed as year-end nears

SEOUL, South Korea — World stock markets were mixed on Thursday in quiet post-Christmas holiday trading. Strong economic data from Asia and the U.S. boosted investor confidence in some markets.

KEEPING SCORE: Britain's FTSE 100 added 0.2 percent to hit a record high of 7,633 as investors seemed to gain confidence in the Brexit talks, which earlier this month were allowed to move on to include key topics like trade. France's CAC 40, however, dipped 0.2 percent to 5,361 and Germany's DAX edged down by the same rate, to 13,049. Futures augured a tepid start on Wall Street with S&P futures up 0.1 percent and Dow futures gaining 0.2 percent.

ASIA'S DAY: Asian stock market except Japan finished higher. Japan's Nikkei 225 erased earlier gains to finish 0.6 percent lower at 22,783.98. South Korea's Kospi surged 1.3 percent to 2,467.49 on its final trading day this year. The benchmark index in Seoul gained 22 percent in 2017. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose 0.9 percent to 29,863.71. China's Shanghai Composite Index advanced 0.6 percent to 3,296.38. In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 added 0.3 percent to 6,088.10.

ANALYST'S TAKE: "Recent strength in the U.S. economy was on display in the December Consumer Confidence Index ... Although it fell below the stellar readings of November and December, the trend remains strong," Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, said in a daily commentary. "This bodes well for a solid base to consumer spending in 2018."

US CONSUMERS: The Conference Board, a business research group, said Wednesday that its consumer confidence index dipped to 122.1 in December from a revised 128.6 in November. The reading shows consumers' expectations still remain at historically strong levels that hinted continued economic growth into 2018.

SOUTH KOREA: Government data showed that retail sales jumped 5.6 percent in November from the previous month, the highest jump in several years, while industrial output at Asia's fourth-largest economy rebounded last month.

BITCOIN: The price of bitcoin sank 8 percent to $14,147 by early afternoon in Europe, according to the tracking site CoinDesk. South Korea's government announced Thursday additional measures to curb speculative trading of virtual currencies in the country, including a ban on opening anonymous accounts.

OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude added 4 cents to $59.68 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract dropped 33 cents on Wednesday. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, fell 3 cents to $66.41 per barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar weakened to 112.88 yen from 113.23 yen. The euro strengthened to $1.1935 from $1.1897.

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