European stock markets have moved higher in low-volume trade, aided by upbeat Spanish unemployment figures, but gains were capped after sharp losses elsewhere following more weak data from China.
In afternoon deals, London’s benchmark FTSE 100 index ended the day up 0.19 per cent at 6,730.67 points.
Frankfurt’s DAX 30 rose 0.37 per cent to 9,435.15 points and the CAC 40 in Paris gained 0.48 per cent to 4,247.65 points.
Elsewhere, Italy’s FTSE Mib rose 0.97 per cent to 19,113 points.
Spain’s IBEX 35 index meanwhile gained 0.39 per cent to 9,798 points, after the eurozone nation announced a sharp contraction in jobless queues in December.
The news offered a glimmer of New Year hope for the 4.7 million people still registered as unemployed in the eurozone’s fourth-largest economy.
“Traders feel that stock markets appear to be a little exhausted at current levels, prompting the temptation to book profits but at the same time, the general tone remains upbeat as we kick off 2014,” ETX Capital trader Ishaq Siddiqi said.
All three main markets sank on Thursday as investors reacted to poor data and took profits on the first trading day of 2014.
Markets were driven to caution on Friday by figures showing growth in the China mainland services sector slowed sharply in December from the month before.
The data came on the heels of Thursday’s news that China’s manufacturing sector had seen an easing of activity last month.
“It appears subdued data out of China was a good catalyst for those present to take some profits and markets came off recent highs,” said Varengold Bank analyst Anita Paluch
In foreign exchange activity, the European single currency fell to $US1.3608 from $US1.3665 late in New York on Thursday.
The dollar dipped at 104.51 yen against 104.69 yen.
US stocks were treading water Friday ahead of a series of appearances by top US Federal Reserve officials, including Chairman Ben Bernanke.
In midday trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average edged up 0.06 per cent to 16,450.89.
The broad-based S&P 500 dipped 0.05 per cent to 1,831.02, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index sank 0.68 per cent at 3,539.39.
Bernanke, in his final month as head of the US central bank, was scheduled to speak at a conference on economics in Philadelphia Friday afternoon, amid hopes he will provide some hints on the direction of monetary policy.
Across in Asia, markets slid with Hong Kong and Shanghai hit hard by the disappointing Chinese services sector data.
Hong Kong stocks tumbled 2.24 per cent, registering their worst performance in six months, as the figures compounded concerns about the world’s number-two economy.
In India, Mumbai’s Sensex was 0.44 per cent lower after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he would leave office after polls due this year even if his embattled Congress party wins a third term.
In company news, Telecom Italia surged 6.92 per cent to 0.7575 euros on a report that main shareholder Telefonica was interested in buying the Italian group’s Brazilian unit.
The share price for spirits company Remy Cointreau fell a sharp 2.56 per cent to 58.91 euros following the surprise resignation of its chief executive after only three months on the job.
In Madrid, construction group Sacyr plummeted 6.85 per cent to 3.195 euros amid a bitter row over enlargement work on the Panama Canal.
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