NEW YORK - The world's stock markets struggled for direction Thursday as investors paused for breath, while bitcoin spiked to a dizzying record above $16,000 on frenzied speculative buying, dealers said.
Leading bourses were mixed, with London dipping and New York, Paris and Frankfurt all engineering modest gains. An exception was the Nikkei, which jumped 1.5 percent, winning back most of the losses from the prior session.
Much of the day's focus was on bitcoin which set multiple fresh records as investors' jaws dropped at its meteoric rise.
The cryptocurrency, which is not traded on traditional markets, powered above $15,000 for the first time and kept rising to $16,070 near 2145 GMT (5:45 a.m. Friday in Manila).
The controversial virtual currency has soared more than 50 percent 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."
It received a major boost in October when exchange giant CME Group announced it would launch a futures marketplace for bitcoin, joining its rival the Cboe in offering trading of the cryptocurrency at a mainstream venue.
Elsewhere, Wall Street shook off this week's lackluster trading and pushed higher, with the tech-rich Nasdaq leading the way thanks to solid gains by Facebook, Google-parent Alphabet and others.
After hitting numerous records last week, US stocks have struggled for momentum this week as the euphoria over the Senate's passage of a tax cut plan shifts to a waiting game as the House and Senate work to reconcile their two versions, which have some key differences.
Still, the day's gains showed an underlying bullishness among investors, said Adam Sarhan, chief executive of 50 Park Investments.
"Until the market pulls back, I don't want to fight this very strong tape," he said. "Every single negative data point, the market is responding to it in a bullish fashion.
"We are in a 'buy first and ask question later' environment."
Analysts were looking ahead to Friday's Labor Department report for November, which is expected to show the US added 190,000 jobs while unemployment held steady at 4.1 percent.
KEY FIGURES AROUND 2150 GMT (5:50 a.m. Friday in Manila)
New York - DOW: UP 0.3 percent at 24,211.48 (close)
New York - S&P 500: UP 0.3 percent at 2,636.98 (close)
New York - Nasdaq: UP 0.5 percent at 6,812.84 (close)
London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.4 percent at 7,320.75 points (close)
Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 0.4 percent at 13,045.15, (close)
Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.2 at 5,383.86 (close)
EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.2 percent at 3,567.50
Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 1.5 percent at 22,498.03 (close)
Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 0.3 percent at 28,303.19 (close)
Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.7 percent at 3,272.05 (close)
Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1773 from $1.1795 at 2200 GMT
Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3469 from $1.3387
Dollar/yen: UP at 113.09 yen from 112.29 yen
Oil - Brent North Sea: UP 98 cents at $62.20 per barrel
Oil - West Texas Intermediate: UP 73 cents at $56.69 per barrel
© Agence France-Presse