Global Stocks Steady On Solid US Data, Positive Vaccine News

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Global stocks were mixed Wednesday as markets digested solid US economic data and positive clinical research on the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine.

Both the Dow and S&P 500 edged higher after data showed stronger-than-expected private sector hiring in January and accelerating growth in the US services sector.

Analysts also cited clinical data showing the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine reduces virus transmission and is highly protective after a single dose.

The market appears to have stabilized following last week's volatility, which was brought on by a social media-driven surge in shares of GameStop, AMC Entertainment and other struggling companies that hedge funds and other major investors had bet against.

An outperformer in Europe was Milan, which jumped 2.1 percent after Italian President Sergio Mattarella directed former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi to form a new government and lift the country out of the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic.

"I am confident that... unity will emerge, and with it the ability to give a responsible and positive answer to the appeal of the president," Draghi said after talks at Mattarella's lavish palace in Rome.

There has been no fully functioning government in Rome for weeks, as Giuseppe Conte's ruling coalition slowly collapsed in a row over the handling of Covid-19 and the resulting deep recession.

"It will not be a comfortable journey, but Draghi's skills and experience may well do the trick," said Lorenzo Codogno, an economist and former top official at the Italian economy ministry.

In other markets, oil prices continued to press higher after a US oil inventory report showed a drop in supplies.

Alphabet surged 7.4 percent after reporting a 50 percent jump in quarterly profit to $15.2 billion as its digital ad business thrived.

Amazon also reported strong profits, but those results were upstaged by the announcement that founder Jeff Bezos would step down and hand the company's reins to Andy Jassy, who heads Amazon Web Services. Shares finished down two percent.

New York - Dow: UP 0.1 percent at 30,723.60 (close)

New York - S&P 500: UP 0.1 percent at 3,830.17 (close)

Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said lawmakers would not 'dilute, dither or delay' the passage of a huge economic stimulus Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said lawmakers would not 'dilute, dither or delay' the passage of a huge economic stimulus  AFP / OLIVIER DOULIERY

New York - Nasdaq: DOWN less than 0.1 percent at 13,610.54 (close)

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.1 percent at 6,507.82 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 0.7 percent at 13,933.63 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: FLAT at 5,563.05 (close)

Milan - FTSE MIB: UP 2.1 percent at 22,527.90 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.5 percent at 3,609.75 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 1.0 percent at 28,646.50 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 0.2 percent at 29,307.46 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.5 percent at 3,517.31 (close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.2035 from $1.2044 at 2200 GMT

Dollar/yen: UP at 105.03 yen from 104.98 yen

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3638 from $1.3668

Euro/pound: UP at 88.24 pence from 88.12

West Texas Intermediate: UP 1.7 percent at $55.69 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: UP 1.7 percent at $58.46 per barrel

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