Stocks mixed as China Covid spike offsets rosier US rate outlook

Stock markets traded mixed Friday, as fresh Covid lockdown fears in China offset hopes that the Federal Reserve would tone down US interest-rate hikes.

Trading was light after the Thanksgiving day break in the United States with few catalysts to drive action on trading floors and investors looking ahead to the release of US jobs data next week.

Most of Europe's major stock markets were up at the end of the day's trading while Asian indices closed mixed.

Similarly Wall Street stocks opened undecided Friday with analysts expecting a quiet trading session with markets closing around midday.

The focus will likely be on Black Friday purchases and so this "could concentrate some of today's thin trading interest on the retail stocks", Patrick O'Hare of Briefing.com said in a note.

The euro was also mixed against main rivals, as official data showed Germany's economy grew more than previously thought in the third quarter despite high inflation and an energy crisis.

Oil prices fell again Friday after heavy losses earlier in the week.

- Mood picking up -

The mood across markets has picked up this month as a series of indicators suggested the US economy, the world's largest, was showing signs of weakness after the Fed ramped up interest rates.

The standout reports were consumer and wholesale inflation, which came in much lower than forecast and provided the US central bank with room to row back on its hawkishness.

And while a selection of Fed officials lined up to warn there was more tightening to come, there is an expectation that the days of bumper 75 basis-point increases are gone.

That has slightly eased worries that the sharp rise in borrowing costs could tip the US economy into recession -- though many observers still see a contraction coming.

SPI Asset Management's Stephen Innes said there was a "market consensus bias to believe that US headline inflation will continue to ease substantially over the next month or two and that the tail risks around (more than five percent interest rates) have dropped sharply".

"After all, a step down to 50 basis points in December would be an unambiguous signal that peak hawkishness has passed."

Focus was also on fears about the spike in Covid cases in China, which authorities are trying to contain with a series of targeted measures in big cities including Beijing and Shanghai, though they are short of full-on lockdowns.

Still, Innes said there appeared to be less concern about the government's reaction as it looks to ease parts of its strict Covid-zero strategy.

"Stock and currency market investors are tentatively looking through the current lockdown regime while betting on the more optimistic interpretation that China is hitting the limits of 'Covid-zero' and the authorities' efforts to loosen restrictions will continue," he added.

- Key figures around 1645 GMT -

New York - Dow: UP 0.5 percent at 34,375.76

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.4 percent at 3,962.41

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.3 percent at 7,486.67 points (close)

Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.1 percent at 6,712.48 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX: FLAT at 14,541.38 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.4 percent at 28,283.03 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: DOWN 0.5 percent at 17,573.58 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.4 percent at 3,101.69 (close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0400 from $1.0411 on Thursday

Dollar/yen: UP at 139.25 yen from 138.39 yen

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2089 from $1.2131

Euro/pound: UP at 86.03 pence from 85.82 pence

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.4 percent at $85.01 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.2 percent at $77.80 per barrel

burs-raz/rox