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US, European stock markets jump on labor data

Wall Street and European stocks rose Thursday as an increase in US jobless claims signaled some cooling in the economy, bringing optimism about the direction of interest rate hikes.

The US Federal Reserve and other central banks have hiked rates in efforts to rein in runaway inflation, but investors fear the aggressive stance could spark a recession as higher borrowing costs slow economic activity.

Data on Thursday showed initial US jobless claims for the week ending December 24 rose more than expected to 225,000, indicating that the labor market could be cooling.

Central bank policymakers have been particularly concerned about the jobs market, where demand for workers has exceeded supply, with wages picking up quickly.

The Paris CAC 40 index and the Frankfurt DAX closed around one percent higher while London's FTSE 100 gained 0.2 percent.

Wall Street closed higher as well after two gloomy days, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq bouncing by 2.6 percent.

But traders said volumes remained thin in the final trading week of the year.

"More broadly, equity markets are just drifting into the New Year and will continue to be choppy for the rest of the week in what I expect will be very thin trade," said OANDA trading platform analyst Craig Erlam.

In Asia, stock markets sank on concerns over China's Covid surge.

The United States has joined a growing number of countries in imposing restrictions on visitors from China, after Beijing announced it would remove curbs on overseas travel even as Covid cases grow.

Investors had previously cheered the easing of the nation's strict zero-Covid controls, which had hammered the world's second-largest economy.

But they are now worried about the impact of the outbreak on global supply chains and inflation.

- Oil prices drop -

Elsewhere, world oil prices fell on Thursday, with traders concerned that the new China outbreak could fuel a global resurgence of the pandemic and ravage energy demand once again.

In Europe, Germany shrugged off Russia's ban on oil sales to countries and companies that comply with a price cap on its crude exports.

This came after the price ceiling of $60 per barrel agreed by the European Union, G7 and Australia came into force this month, in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The move seeks to restrict Russia's revenue while making sure it keeps supplying the global market.

- Key figures around 2130 GMT -

New York - Dow: UP 1.1 percent at 33,220.80 (close)

New York - S&P 500: UP 1.8 percent at 3,849.28 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: UP 2.6 percent at 10,478.09 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.2 percent at 7,512.72 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX: UP 1.1 percent at 14,071.72 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: UP 1.0 percent at 6,573.47 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 1.1 percent at 3,850.07 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.9 percent at 26,093.67 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: DOWN 0.8 percent at 19,741.14 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.4 percent at 3,073.70 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0667 from $1.0618 on Wednesday

Pound/dollar: UP at 1.2062 from $1.2018

Euro/pound: UP at 88.40 pence from 88.30 pence

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 132.96 yen from 134.39 yen

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.7 percent at $78.40 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 1.2 percent at $82.26 per barrel