LONDON -- Markets were subdued Friday as Wall Street readied to return following the Thanksgiving holiday and as the U.S. shopping season begins in earnest.
The day after Thanksgiving is dubbed "Black Friday" because it is when U.S. retailers traditionally turn their first profit of the year as millions of Americans rush out to stores in search of gifts for Christmas and other seasonal holidays.
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A strong holiday shopping season will be used to help predict the momentum of the U.S. economy, the world's biggest. Anecdotal evidence and footfall figures over the coming days will be closely monitored.
"With much of the northeast still struggling in the aftermath of hurricane Sandy, holiday shopping has the potential to disappoint," said Rebecca O'Keeffe, head of investment at Interactive Investor.
In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was up 0.1 percent at 5,797 while Germany's DAX fell the same rate to 7,238. The CAC-40 in France was 0.1 percent lower too at 3,493.
Wall Street was poised for a fairly unspectacular return from Thanksgiving, with both Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures up 0.1 percent. Trading is expected to remain subdued especially as it's only a half day in U.S. markets.
"Thanksgiving Thursday and Friday always means quieter markets and this year is no different," said Alastair McCaig, market analyst at IG.
Though trading levels are clearly down, investors will be monitoring developments in Brussels as European Union leaders try to cobble together a budget deal. The prevailing view in the markets is that nothing will be achieved Friday and that another meeting will be needed.
Cyprus is also in focus amid signs that the country, one of the 17 EU countries that use the euro, is close to agreeing a financial bailout deal with representatives from the EU, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Cyprus stocks were up nearly 10 percent Friday, a clear indicator of an expected deal.
Over the rest of the year, the focus will likely remain on whether the White House can come to a deal with Congress on the budget and whether Greece will get its next batch of bailout cash.
The expectation in the markets is that both will be dealt with positively. A deal to give Greece more money is expected to be achieved at a euro finance ministers meeting on Monday.
Hopes that Greece will avoid an imminent bankruptcy have lain behind the euro's recent advance. That held Friday, with Europe's single currency up a further 0.2 percent at $1.2897.
Earlier in Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose 0.8 percent to 21,913.98 and South Korea's Kospi added 0.6 percent to 1,911.33. Japanese markets were closed for a holiday.
In the oil markets, benchmark oil for January delivery was down 13 cents to $87.25 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.