Global stock markets saw modest gains Thursday following losses the previous session, with investors spooked by a sharp rise in coronavirus cases and continued uncertainty over a pre-election stimulus package in Washington.
New York's Dow gained 0.5 percent, oil was firmer as was the dollar, while the pound slipped after gaining on hopes that on-off-on-again post-Brexit trade talks might finally make some progress.
Better-than-expected new US jobless benefit claims and another jump in home sales were welcomed, but analysts said the underlying economic situation remained concerning and made the case for a fresh stimulus package from Washington all the more pressing.
"With fiscal relief package hopes dimming, this situation is worrisome," Gregory Daco of Oxford Economics tweeted.
David Madden, analyst at CMC Markets UK, said that while investors expect some sort of a package, eventually "there isn't much hope that it will be achieved soon."
The deadlock in Congress over the spending measure comes as coronavirus cases surge across the United States, with many Americans already struggling to pay the bills and observers fearful the economy could again be hit badly.
The White House has said it will agree to a $1.9 trillion package but that is $300 billion short of what Democrats have put forward, while Senate Republicans are increasingly opposed to passing such a large bill.
Analysts said markets have also been jolted by US Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe's revelations that Russia and Iran have meddled in the election run-up, sending "spoofed" emails to Americans "designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest and damage President Trump".
President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden face-off on the debate stage later Thursday after their first encounter turned into a shouting match.
- Pound retreats -
The pound gave up some of the strong gains won Wednesday against the dollar and euro on hopes of a post-Brexit trade deal between Britain and the European Union.
EU negotiators headed to London on Thursday to resume talks after Britain called off a boycott, with both sides vowing to work round the clock to seal a deal in the short time left.
Britain meanwhile said it had agreed to a provisional trade deal with Norway, Switzerland and two other non-EU partners to ensure continuity after its Brexit divorce from the European Union.
- Key figures around 2100 GMT -
New York - Dow Jones: UP 0.5 percent at 28,363.66 (close)
New York - S&P 500: UP 0.5 percent at 3,453.49 (close)
New York - Nasdaq: UP 0.2 percent at 11,506.01 (close)
London - FTSE 100: UP 0.2 percent at 5,785.65 points (close)
Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 0.1 percent at 12,543.06 (close)
Paris - CAC 40: FLAT 0.1 percent at 4,851.38 (close)
EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.3 percent at 3,171.41 (close)
Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.7 percent at 23,474.27 (close)
Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 0.1 percent at 24,786.13 (close)
Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.4 percent at 3,312.50 (close)
Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1818 from $1.1857 at 2050 GMT
Dollar/yen: UP at 104.90 yen from 104.58 yen
Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3083 from $1.3145
Euro/pound: UP at 90.03 pence from 90.19 pence
West Texas Intermediate: UP 1.5 percent at $40.65 per barrel
Brent North Sea crude: UP 1.7 percent at $42.46 per barrel