TOKYO (AP) — Global stock markets were steady in quiet trading Wednesday after the Dow Jones industrial average inched closer to the 20,000 level and the Nasdaq Composite hit a record high.
KEEPING SCORE: Germany's DAX was flat at 11,470 and the CAC 40 of France edged 0.1 percent lower to 4,845. The FTSE 100 gained 0.4 percent to 7,095.
Wall Street was expected to edge higher even though the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday registered its lightest full day of trading since October 2015. Both Dow and S&P 500 futures were up 0.2 percent. That would bring the Dow — which closed at 19,945.04 — nearer to the 20,000 threshold, which it has never crossed before.
ANALYST VIEWPOINT: "Like a pendulum losing momentum, markets have trudged on at this subdued pace ... waiting for a new catalyst to re-energize trade in the New Year," Jingyi Pan of IG said in a commentary. "Historically the market has always been up into the final days of the year and that seasonality trend certainly appears to hold true."
JAPAN DATA: Retail sales edged up 0.2 percent from the month before in November, after a 2.5 percent jump in October. Industrial output rose 1.5 percent from the month before, in line with economists' expectations. Surging prices for fresh foods, especially vegetables, have dented consumer's appetites for spending, economists said. The data provided a "flicker of optimism" Mizuho Bank economists said in a commentary, "But this is a far cry from an emphatic recovery."
THE DAY IN ASIA: Japan's Nikkei 225 was flat at 19,401.72 as Toshiba Corp.'s shares plunged a "limit-down" 20 percent due to anticipated losses on its U.S. nuclear power operations. Australia's S&P ASX 200 gained 1 percent to 5,685.00. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index gained 0.8 percent to 21,754.74 while the Shanghai Composite index fell 0.4 percent to 3,102.24. South Korea's Kospi dropped 0.9 percent to 2,024.49. Shares in Southeast Asia were mostly higher.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 21 cents to $54.11 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose 88 cents on Tuesday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 29 cents to $56.38 a barrel, having gained 93 cents the day before.
CURRENCIES: The dollar, which has been boosted in recent weeks by expectations of more interest rate increases in the U.S., continued to rise. It trading at 117.80 yen, up from 117.44 the day before. The euro fell to $1.0399 from $1.0462.
AP Business Writer Alex Veiga in New York contributed.