European markets fluctuated between gains and losses, and the Stoxx Europe 600 closed mostly flat, after European Central Bank President Mario Draghi spoke to the press. An auction of Spanish government bonds went off without a hitch, with borrowing costs declining for most maturities.
In London the FTSE added just two points to settle at 5827, whilst CAC (-0.1%) and DAX (-0.2%) lost ground. Stateside, the Dow Jones added 81 points (+0.6%) to settle at 13575, whilst the S&P (+0.7%) and NASDAQ (+0.5%) enjoyed similar gains.
A pair of encouraging economic reports helped nudge US markets higher. Measures of business activity in the service sector and job growth last month came in better than economists had expected. Initial claims for jobless benefits rose slightly to 367,000 during the latest week, slightly better news than expected.
Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires expected claims to increase to 370,000. August factory orders also came in just better than expected, falling 5.2% from July. That was better than the 6% drop expected by economists, but still was the largest monthly decrease in three years.
Crude oil futures climbed 3.7% to $91.42 a barrel, bouncing from a two-month low hit on Wednesday, while gold futures advanced 0.9% to $1,795.20 a troy ounce. The US dollar fell against the euro and the yen.
In company news, Billabong last night announced that it is still in discussions with TPG over a potential takeover, although the private equity firm has raised some concerns. There is no major local data due out for today’s session.