European markets steady ahead of Catalan election results

LONDON — European stock markets traded in narrow ranges Thursday as investors assessed the final congressional approval of a sweeping U.S. tax revamp and awaited results of an election in the restive Spanish region of Catalonia aimed at resolving months of political uncertainty.

KEEPING SCORE: In Europe, France's CAC 40 was flat at 5,352 while Germany's DAX fell 0.1 percent to 13,056. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares rose 0.4 percent to 7,559. U.S. stocks were set for a solid opening with Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures up 0.2 percent.

TAX PASSAGE: The U.S. Congress passed President Donald Trump's $1.5 trillion tax overhaul, which brings generous cuts for corporations and rich Americans. Trump boasted that it would provide "rocket fuel" for growth in the world's biggest economy, though judging from the market reaction investors appear to have anticipated the result.

ANALYST TAKE: "Having mastered one legislative change, the administration's appetite for more will probably grow, with another go at health care certainly on the agenda, and even perhaps an infrastructure plan to boot," said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG.

CATALAN VOTE: Voting was underway in Spain's Catalonia in an election intended to break a bitter deadlock of the region's independence drive. Some 5.5 million eligible voters will choose regional representatives to replace those sacked after separatist lawmakers declared independence in October.

CHINA ECONOMY: The Central Economic Work Conference, led by President Xi Jinping, is a throwback to China's era of central planning and plays an important role in setting development goals for the state-dominated economy. A statement issued after the three-day annual planning meeting contained no new initiatives and was in line with the ruling Communist Party's plans to make the economy more efficient while also building up state industries.

JAPAN POLICY: The Bank of Japan kept its monetary policy unchanged at its final meeting for 2017, signaling it will rely on recovering growth to help drive inflation higher. The key policy rate remains at minus 0.1 percent and massive asset purchases by the central bank are set to continue for as long as is needed to help attain a inflation target of 2 percent. The BOJ said inflation expectations were still in a "weakening phase."

ASIA'S DAY: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 lost 0.1 percent to close at 22,866.10 and South Korea's Kospi sank 1.7 percent to 2,429.83. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong gained 0.5 percent to 29,367.06 and the Shanghai Composite advanced 0.4 percent to 3,300.06. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.3 percent to 6,060.40. India's Sensex was flat at 33,791.26.

CURRENCIES: The euro was down 0.1 percent at $1.1862 while the dollar rose 0.1 percent to 113.49 yen.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell 16 cents to $57.93 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange while Brent crude, used to price international oils, spiked $1.19 to $64.42 a barrel in London.

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