LONDON: The world's stock markets struggled for direction on Thursday (Dec 7) as investors paused for breath, while bitcoin spiked to a dizzying record above US$15,000 on frenzied speculative buying, dealers said.
Paris stocks crept 0.2 per cent higher and Frankfurt gained 0.4 per cent, but London turned 0.4 per cent lower.
Wall Street rose modestly, with the Dow adding 0.3 per cent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite climbing 0.7 per cent. Analysts said investor sentiment was still hamstrung by coming political battles surrounding a US tax reform plan.
Much focus, meanwhile, was on bitcoin which set a fresh record as investors' jaws dropped at the cryptocurrency's meteoric rise.
Bitcoin, which is not traded on traditional currency market, powered to a fresh high of US$15,969.99, before falling back according to Bloomberg data.
The controversial virtual unit has soared more than 50 per cent in just one week, but analysts warn that the snowballing rally could melt in the run-up to Christmas.
UNENCUMBERED BY REAL WORLD
"While the European stocks indices try and shake off yesterday's politically-driven bearish trading, bitcoin - seemingly unencumbered by anything in the real world - has continued its astonishing march," Spreadex trader Connor Campbell told AFP.
"The rolling wave of speculation has given bitcoin a huge amount of momentum, a snowball effect that may be melted when the cryptocurrency's futures are launched in a few weeks."
"Bitcoin is continuing to travel at break-neck speed," CMC Markets analyst David Madden told AFP.
"The alternative investment is proving to be very popular at a time when traditional assets like gold are under pressure," he added, noting the precious metal had touched a four-month low.
Bitcoin received a major boost in October when exchange giant CME Group announced it would launch a futures marketplace for bitcoin, which has not been listed on a major bourse before.
"Bitcoin ... has registered yet another milestone in its never-ending rally," added IG analyst Chris Beauchamp. "There seems no end to the supply of willing buyers, with the endless progression of higher prices simply fuelling the mania."
Tokyo stocks rallied on Thursday after three days of losses, but regional Asian markets were dogged by political concerns, the latest being US President Donald Trump's controversial decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
After a blockbuster year for most global markets - helped by bets on Trump's promise to cut taxes and ramp up spending - geopolitical worries and dealers winding down for the year's end have put them on course for a painful December.
Trump's Jerusalem decision drew swift global condemnation and fanned fears about the overall prospects for stability in the Middle East.
That followed news this week that one of the president's former close advisers had admitted lying to investigators in a probe into Russian meddling in the US election, bringing it closer to the White House.
Elsewhere, Britain's struggles to hammer out a deal with the EU on the Irish border question have left Brexit talks in limbo, meaning the second phase of the negotiations - on trade - cannot yet go ahead.
Key figures around 1630 GMT:
London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.4 per cent at 7,320.75 points (close)
Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 0.4 per cent at 13,045.15, (close)
Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.2 at 5,383.86 (close)
EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.2 per cent at 3,567.50
Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 1.5 per cent at 22,498.03 (close)
Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 0.3 per cent at 28,303.19 (close)
Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.7 per cent at 3,272.05 (close)
Euro/dollar: UP at US$1.1799 from US$1.1795 at 2200 GMT
Pound/dollar: UP at US$1.3421 from US$1.3393
Dollar/yen: UP at 112.65 yen from 112.27 yen
Oil - Brent North Sea: UP 75 cents at US$61.97 per barrel
Oil - West Texas Intermediate: UP 41 cents at US$56.37