World Shares Extend Gains in Thin Pre-Christmas Trading

BANGKOK (AP) -- World shares were higher Thursday after stocks advanced on Wall Street, lifted by encouraging reports about the potential impact of the omicron variant of coronavirus and stronger U.S. economic data.

Major indexes are on track for a Christmas week gains, with trading thinning as the holidays approach. Many world markets will be closed Friday in observance of Christmas.

Germany's DAX rose 0.2% in early trading to 15,629.92 and the CAC 40 in Paris edged 0.1% higher to 7,058.21. Britain's FTSE 100 edged down 0.1% to 7,331.40. U.S. futures advanced, with contracts for both the S&P 500 and the Dow industrials up 0.1%.

The latest surge in coronavirus cases because of the omicron variant has been hanging over markets, along with concerns about rising inflation and its impact on economic growth.

Governments in Asia and Europe have tightened travel controls or pushed back plans to relax curbs already in place.

But reports that omicron cases might be less severe, especially for people who have been fully vaccinated, appear to have alleviated some of that concern.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 gained 0.8% to 28,798.37. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng edged 0.4% higher to 23,193.64. The Shanghai Composite index picked up 0.6% to 3,643.34. South Korea's Kospi climbed 0.5% to 2,998.17, while the S&P/ASX 200 advanced 0.3% to 7,387.60.

Shares also rose in Taiwan and Thailand.

On Wednesday, the S&P 500 rose 1% to 4,696.56, the Nasdaq rose 1.2% to 15,521.89 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.7% to 35,753.89. The Russell 2000, a measure of small-company stocks, rose 0.9% to 2,221.90.

The Commerce Department on Wednesday said the U.S. economy grew at a 2.3% rate in the third quarter, slightly better than previously thought. But prospects for a solid rebound going forward are being clouded by the rapid spread of the latest variant of the coronavirus.

Uncertainty over the latest variant's impact on the economy is likely to cause more stock market swings.

Outbreaks of virus have intensified in South Korea, China and Australia and cases of the omicron variant have been expanding in other parts of Asia that had largely brought infections under control.

In other trading, U.S. benchmark crude oil lost 26 cents to $72.50 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It jumped 2.3% on Wednesday. Brent crude, the basis for pricing international crude, gave up 27 cents to $75.01 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar rose to 114.29 Japanese yen from 114.09 yen late Wednesday. The euro was at $1.1322, down from $1.1329.