Benchmarks rose in Frankfurt, Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong but fell in Sydney. U.S. futures edged higher, while the yield on the 10-year Treasury note was steady at 1.33 percent.
Oil prices retreated from their surge earlier in the week.
U.S. shares edged higher in the early going on Thursday after a surprisingly good retail sales report for August. That was followed by a disappointing report showing that weekly unemployment claims rose more than expected.
The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average each lost about 0.2 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq managed to eke out a gain of 0.1 percent.
Investor concerns over prolonged outbreaks of coronavirus are weighing on sentiment as they await the Federal Reserve’s next moves.
“Overall, the mood remains a little downbeat in the markets, with investors torn between the ‘buy the dip’ approach that has fared so well in the past and the growing list of economic and market risks that are increasingly evident,” Craig Erlam of Oanda said in a commentary.
Germany’s DAX gained 0.7 percent to 15,756.95 while the CAC 40 in Paris surged 0.8 percent to 6,675.56. Britain’s FTSE 100 added 0.3 percent to 7,044.99. The futures for the S&P 500 and Dow industrials edged 0.1 percent higher.
In Asia, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index added 0.6 percent to 30,500.05.
In Japan, stocks have been trading near three-decade highs in anticipation of a change in leadership after Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga pulled out of the running for head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
Suga’s support ratings had languished amid wide public dissatisfaction with his administration’s response to the pandemic.
LDP lawmakers and grassroots members will vote on Sept. 29, with a parliamentary election due next month.
The Hang Seng in Hong Kong rebounded from losses earlier in the week, gaining 0.2 percent to 24,723.57. The Kospi in Seoul edged 0.1 percent higher to 3,132.76.
The Shanghai Composite index rose 0.2 percent to 3,613.97, while the S&P/ASX 200 in Sydney declined 0.8 percent to 7,403.70.
The U.S. Commerce Department reported that retail sales rose 0.7 percent last month. Economists had expected a 0.85 percent contraction, reasoning that spending would have fallen as the highly contagious delta variant of COVID-19 prompts consumers to pull back on shopping.
Markets have been choppy as investors shift money between various sectors while parsing data for clues about where the economy is headed and how the Federal Reserve will react.
The central bank will meet next week, and investors will listen closely for any comments about when and how much it will taper support for low interest rates that have helped fuel gains for stocks throughout the year.
In other trading, U.S. benchmark crude oil fell 38 cents to $72.23 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It was unchanged overnight at $72.61 per barrel.
Brent crude, the standard for international pricing, shed 32 cents to $75.35 per barrel.
The dollar rose to 109.94 Japanese yen from 109.81 yen late Thursday. The euro climbed to $1.1773 from $1.1761.
By Elaine Kurtenbach