In US economic data released on Christmas Eve, initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted level of 280,000, their fourth straight week of declines, and below the forecast of 290,000.
European shares were flat on Christmas Eve with many markets either closed or having half-day trading sessions. The FTSEurofirst 300 index was flat with the UK FTSE up 0.2 per cent while the French CAC40 lost 0.4 per cent.
US sharemarkets rose on Friday in thin trade with the Dow Jones and S&P 500 indexes at record highs. The Dow Jones finished higher for a seventh day, up by 23.5 points or 0.1 per cent. It was the longest winning streak since March 2013. The S&P 500 index was up by 0.3 per cent while the Nasdaq lifted by 33 points or 0.7 per cent. For the week, the Dow rose by 1.4 per cent, the S&P rose by 0.9 per cent and the Nasdaq also rose by 0.9 per cent.
US long-term treasuries rose slightly in thin trade on Friday (yields lower). US 2-year yields fell by 1 point to 0.74 per cent while US 10-year yields fell by 2 points to 2.25 per cent. The yield curve is the flattest in 6-1/2 years. Over the week both US 2-year yields and US 10-year yields rose by 9 points.
Major currencies fell against the greenback in European and US trade on Friday. The euro eased from highs near $US1.2215 to around $US1.2170 and was at $US1.2175 in late US trade. The Aussie dollar fell from highs near US81.30c to around US81.05c and was around US81.15c in late US trade. And the Japanese yen weakened from ¥120.15 per US dollar to ¥120.45 and was near ¥120.39 in late US trade.
World oil prices fell on Friday in thin, holiday-affected trade. Investors were still responding to the data on Wednesday from the US Energy Department which showed a 7.3 million-barrel rise in crude inventories to their highest levels on record. Brent crude fell by US79c or 1.3 per cent to US$59.45 a barrel. US Nymex crude fell by $US1.11 or 2.0 per cent to $US54.73 a barrel. Over the week Brent crude fell by US$1.93 or 3.1 per cent while Nymex lost $US1.79 or 3.2 per cent.
Base metal prices fell up to 2.5 per cent on the London Metal Exchange over the past week with aluminium leading the declines. But tin fell by only 0.6 per cent while lead lost 0.8 per cent. Gold rose in thin trade on Friday with Thomson Reuters attributing the gains to "short-covering after China's central bank was reported to be considering a loosening of liquidity requirements at the country's banks". The Comex gold futures price was up by $US21.80 an ounce or 1.9 per cent to US$1,195.30 per ounce. Over the week gold lost US70c. Iron ore rose by US60c on Christmas Eve to $US66.50 but fell by $US2.80 over the week.
Ahead: In Australia no major economic data is scheduled. In the US, the Midwest manufacturing index together with the Dallas Fed manufacturing index will be released.