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World shares meander as gains from advance in crude oil prices fade in pre-Christmas lull

TOKYO – Global markets meandered Thursday after early gains from surging oil prices faded in light pre-Christmas holiday trading. Germany’s markets were closed and many other major markets had half-day sessions.

KEEPING SCORE: Britain’s FTSE 100 edged up 0.1 per cent to 6,245.61 while France’s CAC40 fell 0.3 per cent to 4,658.58. Wall Street looked set for a slow start, with Dow futures down 0.8 per cent and S&P futures down 0.2 per cent.

THE QUOTE: “Falling volatility and trade volume mark the days prior to the Christmas holidays,” said Bernard Aw of IG, noting a lack of inspiration as funds and traders wind down positions before the end of the year.

JAPAN BLUES: Share prices in Japan fell back after Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda, in a speech to business leaders, commented on the difficulty of attaining the BOJ’s 2 per cent inflation target without faster wage increases — a persistent challenge in a country where companies are reluctant to invest more given the declining population and slow growth in demand.

ASIA’S DAY: Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock index fell 0.5 per cent to 18,789.69 after spending most of the day in positive territory. The Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.7 per cent to 3,612.49 and South Korea’s Kospi fell 0.4 per cent to 1,990.65. But Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index added 0.4 per cent to 22,138.13 and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 1.3 per cent to 5,207.60 in half-day Christmas Eve sessions. Markets in Southeast Asia, Taiwan and New Zealand were higher. Apart from Tokyo and Shanghai, most major regional markets will be closed on Friday for Christmas.

ENERGY: Oil prices continued their recovery from lows earlier in the week. U.S. crude futures gained 24 cents to $37.74 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. They jumped $1.36, or 3.8 per cent, to $37.50 a barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, was up 32 cents at $37.68. It added $1.25, or 3.5 per cent, to $37.36 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar edged lower to 120.46 yen from 120.92 in the previous session. The euro was slightly higher at $1.0941, up from $1.0914.