European stocks edged higher Thursday, while U.S. equity futures drifted from record highs even as global stocks extended January rally that has added $1.3 trillion to portfolios around the world amid the best start to any year in nearly three decades.
Europe's Stoxx 600 index, the broadest measure of regional shares prices, was marked 0.08% higher at 398.30 points in the opening houss of trading as investors took advantage of a pullback in the euro to add to equity positions. The single currency slipped around 0.7% to 1.2212 this week, from its three year high against the dollar, amid comments from European Central Bank policy makers that suggest it may complicate the Bank's effort to quicken Eurozone inflation.
Currency levels were also impacting stocks in Britain, where the FTSE 100 gained 0.19% but was held back by the pound's recent gains, which are keeping it at a mid-2016 high of 1.3830 in early London trading.
Early indications from Wall Street futures are also positive following last night's record levels that saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average close above 26,000 points and the broader S&P 500 close over 2,800 points for the first time in history. Contracts tied to the Dow were marked 15 points, or 0.06% lower, in European trading while those linked to the S&P 500 were seen 2.25 points to the downside.
Another busy slate of U.S. corporate earnings is also on the cards Thursday, with quarterly figures from Morgan Stanley (MS) - Get Report , Key Corp (KEY) - Get Report , American Express Corp. (AMX) - Get Report , and IBM (IBM) - Get Report , Bank of New York Mellon (BNY) - Get Report , and BB&T Corporation (BBT) - Get Report
Overnight in Asia, a stronger-than-expected reading for both fourth quarter and full-year GDP data from China helped stocks in the region extend gains to a record high, lifting the benchmark MSCI Asia ex-Japan index 0.4% higher at one point on the session before investors pared the gains to around 0.21% into the close of trading. Japan's Nikkei 225 was also testing fresh 26-year highs during the trading day before slipping 0.4% to close at 23,763.37 points.
China's economy grew by a faster-than-expected rate of 6.8% in the final three months of last year, according to official data published Thursday, even as authorities pledged to crackdown on debt-fuelled growth and excessive pollution in the world's second largest economy.
China's full-year 2017 growth rate was pegged at 6.9%, according to the National Bureau of Statistics topping the government's own 6.5% forecast and firmly ahead of 2016's final reading of 6.2%, which was the slowest in at least 25 years.
Collectively, Wall Street's record close and the fresh all-time highs in Asia have lifted global stocks by some 4.3% so far this year, the best January start since 1988 according to Bloomberg data.
The U.S. dollar also active overnight, rising some 0.21% to 90.72 against six global currencies, although investors were more likely influenced by the euro's decline, given its weight in the dollar index basket and the over-arching concern of a government shutdown later this week.
Global oil prices eased from three-year highs overnight, paring gains from its recent 14% rally since early December after data from the American Petroleum Institute showed that domestic crude stocks fell 5.1 million barrels in the week ending Jan. 12.
Brent crude contracts for March delivery, the global benchmark for prices, were marked 22 cents lower at $69.16 per barrel while WTI futures for the same month were seen 9 cents lower at $63.88 per barrel.