Stock markets mostly gained on December 17 as investors kept an eye on US stimulus progress and the rollout of vaccines but surging infections and new lockdowns tempered gains.
The pound held around 19-month highs against the dollar on Brexit optimism and ahead of a monetary policy update from the Bank of England (BoE) due at 1200 GMT.
The strengthened pound though weighed on London’s benchmark FTSE 100 stocks index featuring multinationals earnings in dollars.
Eurozone equity indices climbed after gains across much of Asia, while the dollar struggled after a US Federal Reserve (Fed) update.
Bitcoin extended gains to a fresh record above $22,000.
The unit, which was wallowing around $5,000 in March, has soldiered higher since online payments giant PayPal said it would enable account holders to use cryptocurrency.
Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG trading group, said: “Markets overall are still in a positive frame of mind, managing to find the good news in an otherwise dull Fed statement and looking forward to some progress on a US stimulus deal, the major narrative behind this market bounce.
“Market watchers move on from the non-event of last night’s . . . [Fed] meeting to the BoE meeting, which is likely to be equally dull in terms of any policy decisions.
“But with Brexit just days away the bank’s view of the situation will be of great interest, providing a useful counter to the cycle of briefing and counter-briefing from the UK and EU sides.”
EU negotiator Michel Barnier on December 17 said talks with Britain on a post-Brexit trade deal were progressing but that there had been no breakthrough.
He tweeted: “Good progress, but last stumbling blocks remain. We will only sign a deal protecting EU interests and principles.”
Regarding US stimulus, lawmakers said they were hopeful of passing a much-needed rescue package for the economy as they haggled over details of a bipartisan proposal that appeared to have broken months of deadlock.
With the two most contentious items removed from the plan, which is said to amount to around $900 billion, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said leaders “made major headway”.
As the stimulus talks continued, the Fed held its final policy meeting of the year at which it gave an upbeat assessment of the outlook for the world’s top economy next year and pledged to maintain its huge bond-buying, monetary-easing programme until it is back on an even keel.
But bank chief Jerome Powell reiterated the need for US lawmakers to reach a stimulus agreement.