U.S. stock futures drifted higher Thursday, with investors anticipating a quiet day of trading on Thanksgiving.
Futures tied to the S&P 500 ticked up less than 0.1%, a day after the benchmark stocks gauge closed at its second-highest level on record. Futures for the technology-heavy Nasdaq-100 index edged up 0.4%.
The U.S. stock and government-bond markets will be closed for the holiday.
Overseas, the pan-continental Stoxx Europe 600 slipped 0.1%, with U.K. equity markets weighing on the broader gauge.
Most major Asian markets ended the day higher. Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 0.9% to its highest level since 1991. The Shanghai Composite Index ticked up 0.2%.
Stocks have been buoyed in recent weeks by optimism about the potential widespread distribution of three Western vaccines in the new year. Investors say the shots likely have the potential to quell the pandemic, allowing portions of the world economy to reopen and releasing pent-up demand for goods and services.
“The big story has been the strength in equity markets,” said Joe Little, chief global strategist at HSBC Asset Management. “You’re seeing many of these laggard sectors and even laggard markets begin to enter the process of a catch-up.”
The rotation into economically-sensitive sectors can keep running in 2021, according to Mr. Little. European and U.K. stock markets, heavily dominated by old-economy companies, stand to benefit, he added.
Among individual European stocks,
fell 4.4% after the Spanish energy company said it would invest €18.3 billion ($21.8 billion) between 2021 and 2025 in a push to accelerate the energy transition.
Shares in Lloyd Banking Group,
and other financial-services companies weighed on the U.K.’s FTSE 100 benchmark, a day after the nation’s fiscal watchdog said the economy is on course to record its worst contraction in 300 years. Signs that the U.K. may leave the European Union without a trade agreement and introduce new barriers to commerce have also made money managers wary of investing in British stocks.
“Clearly Brexit news over the past day hasn’t been as positive,” said Edward Park, chief investment officer at Brooks Macdonald. “It could over the medium term and long term be far more influential in terms of GDP than Covid,” Mr. Park said of a no-deal Brexit.
Buoyant stock markets in the U.S. and Europe contrast with a worsening economic outlook for the next several months, as rising coronavirus cases weigh on consumer confidence and restrictions crimp activity. German consumer sentiment is set to fall in December, market-research firm GfK said Thursday, after a pickup in infections led authorities to impose a partial lockdown.
“There is a kind of contrast between the current situation around us in the real world, where we see effectively we are in a double-dip [recession],” said Nadège Dufossé, deputy head of multiasset at Luxembourg-based asset manager Candriam. “But the market is now focusing on next year, on the rebound.”
The WSJ Dollar Index, which tracks the U.S. currency against a basket of others, was flat.
Sweden’s krona slipped 0.4% after the Riksbank said its key interest rate is likely to remain at zero for the coming years. The central bank expanded and extended its asset-purchase program.
In commodities, Brent-crude futures fell 0.7% to $48.18 a barrel, trimming recent gains after the international energy benchmark settled at its highest level since early March on Wednesday.
Bitcoin’s surge stalled, pulling the cryptocurrency down around 9% to $17,130.60. Technical indicators showing that the price had risen too high encouraged investors to book profits, said Joel Kruger, foreign-exchange strategist at LMAX Group.
—Anna Hirtenstein contributed to this article.
Write to Joe Wallace at Joe.Wallace@wsj.com
A Global Asset Management Seoul Korea Magazine