* Wall St flat on 'fiscal cliff' stalemate
* Third-quarter U.S. GDP tops expectations; market barely
* Oil prices fall on future U.S. demand concerns
By Angela Moon
NEW YORK, Dec 20 Global shares were little
changed near 17-month highs on Thursday, while oil prices
slipped as the latest setback in talks to avert the U.S. "fiscal
cliff" kept buyers on hold.
In currency markets, the Bank of Japan's widely expected
decision to ease policy for a third time in four months
encouraged traders who had sold yen ahead of the move to take
profits, sending the dollar and euro higher.
After gaining for most of the week, Wall Street was flat as
investors fretted that a deal on the U.S. budget would not come
as soon as they had hoped after President Barack Obama
threatened to veto a controversial Republican plan.
The market barely reacted to strong U.S. economic data,
including gross domestic product growth and housing, suggesting
talks to avert the steep tax hikes and spending cuts due to take
effect in 2013 remain the primary focus for markets.
Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner said Wednesday
his chamber would pass a proposal that spares many wealthy
Americans from tax hikes needed to balance the budget. Obama has
threatened to veto the plan if it passes, while some Republicans
oppose any deal featuring tax increases.
"The closer we get to the end of the year without a deal,
the more optimism is going to evaporate," said Todd
Schoenberger, managing partner at LandColt Capital in New York.
"Volatility is going to be extreme until there's a deal, and the
probability of being caught on the downside is much greater than
being on the upside."
While investors have hoped for a budget agreement soon, this
seems unlikely as wrangling continues over the details.
MSCI's world equity index has risen steadily
over the past five weeks on optimism that a budget deal would
clear the way for stronger growth in 2013. It was steady near
342 points on Thursday, not far from levels last seen in July
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 8.28
points, or 0.06 percent, at 13,243.69. The Standard & Poor's 500
Index was up 1.05 points, or 0.07 percent, at 1,436.86.
The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 3.18 points, or 0.10
percent, at 3,041.18.
In Europe, equity indexes remained near multi-month highs.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index, which closed
near a 19-month high on Wednesday, edged up 0.04 percent to
In the currency market, the euro pared gains against the
dollar, hitting New York session lows in volatile trading, with
no real fundamental driver for the move and thin market
conditions tending to exacerbate moves.
The euro touched New York lows of $1.3232. It was
last at $1.3239, up just 0.1 percent on the day. [ID:
The yen slipped against the dollar. The scale of asset
purchases set by the Bank of Japan disappointed some investors
who had positioned for more aggressive easing.
The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note was up
7/32, the yield at 1.7805 percent.
The worries over the course of events in Washington spread
through the commodity markets, stoking concerns about demand
from the world's biggest consumer.
Brent crude slipped 25 cents to $110.11 a barrel
and U.S. oil fell 23 cents to $89.75.
Gold edged back toward $1,670 an ounce, recovering from this
week's 3-1/2 month low as physical buyers returned to the
market. But the uncertainty over the U.S. fiscal crisis kept
traders on the sidelines.