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AAP

2012-12-21

A roundup of trading on major world markets:

NEW YORK - Wall Street moved into positive territory in afternoon trading after a lacklustre morning.

Uncertainty about the approaching so-called fiscal cliff was top of mind for many traders.

The House planned to move ahead on what Speaker John Boehner called "Plan B," though President Barack Obama has threatened to veto it.

The political haggling made traders indecisive, with minor developments pushing the market back and forth.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 42 points at 13,294 heading into the final hour of trade.

The Standard & Poor's 500 was up seven points at 1,443. The Nasdaq composite index had added nine points to 3,053.

Also at the forefront for many traders was the news that NYSE Euronext, the parent of the New York Stock Exchange, planned to sell itself to IntercontinentalExchange, an upstart and lesser-known exchange operator based in Atlanta.

Even without the complications of the fiscal cliff, the US economy has been difficult to read, a pattern that continued on Thursday.

The government said the US economy grew at an annual rate of 3.1 per cent over the summer, higher than the previous estimate of 2.7 per cent. But the growth is likely to slow in the current quarter and early next year.

The government also reported that the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week, a disappointment after four straight weeks of declines.

But the four-week moving average of jobless claims, a less volatile measurement, fell.

LONDON - Europe's main stock markets were steady, with investors nervous that US leaders have still not agreed on a deal to avert the so-called fiscal cliff, dealers said.

London's FTSE 100 index of leading companies slipped 0.05 per cent to 5,958.34 points, while in Frankfurt the DAX 30 edged up 0.05 per cent to 7,672.1 points and in Paris the CAC 40 added 0.06 per cent to reach its highest close of the year at 3,666.73 points.

The Milan market added 0.41 per cent and Madrid shares were flat.

Many European shares spent the morning in negative territory, but perked up on the announcement that the US InterContinentalExchange (ICE) will buy transatlantic peer NYSE Euronext for $US8.2 billion ($A7.8 billion) to create the world's biggest market operator.

HONG KONG - Asian markets mostly rose following big gains in the previous session but investors are growing nervous that US leaders have still not agreed a deal to avert the so-called fiscal cliff.

The yen slipped a tad against the euro and US dollar after Japan's central bank unveiled more huge monetary easing but it held on to earlier gains as traders had mostly expected the new measures.

Tokyo fell 1.19 per cent on profit-taking after surging to an eight-month high on Wednesday.

The index lost 121.07 points to 10,039.33 - a day after breaking the 10,000 barrier for the first time since early April.

Seoul closed 0.32 per cent higher, adding 6.41 points to 1999.50, with the election of conservative Park Geun-hye seeming to have little effect, although dealers were broadly happy as she favours stability over big change.

Hong Kong staged a late rally to end 0.16 per cent higher, adding 36.41 points to 22,659.78 while Shanghai gained 0.28 per cent, or 6.11 points, to 2,168.35.

WELLINGTON - New Zealand shares rose to a new five-year high, as foreign investors were drawn to the nation's relatively attractive returns and cheered the expansion plans of companies such as SkyCity Entertainment Group.

The NZX 50 Index rose 52.45 points, or 1.3 per cent, to 4,075.45, the highest close since December 2007.