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Stocks tread water as investors enter pre-holiday mode

A collective 'meh' moment

Stock markets traded mostly sideways on Thursday as investors unwound positions ahead of Christmas and a rally fuelled by a China-US trade pact lost steam.

London and Wall Street posted gains, but traders reported that neither impeachment proceedings in the US nor interest rate decision in Europe sparked much excitement.

The US House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump, but he is unlikely to be removed from office by the Republican-held senate.

"Markets are brushing off the impeachment of Donald Trump as political theatre without economic consequence," said Jasper Lawler at LCG.

Michael Hewson at CMC said financial markets had given the news "a collective 'meh', while IG analyst Chris Beauchamp quipped that "the president, it seems, could offer to sell Alaska back to Russia and the Republican party might still not vote to impeach him".

The Bank of England, meanwhile, kept its key lending rate at 0.75 percent.

It also left the door open to a possible easing next year depending how Brexit goes, "though its commentary and voting pattern could easily have been more dovish than they were", analysts at Nomura said.

The Swedish central bank, also on Thursday, became the first to bring its leading rates back from negative levels.

In European equity markets, London edged upwards as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson laid out his plans for government after last week's election triumph, with a focus on delivering Brexit and supporting the health service.

Frankfurt ended a touch lower, while Paris managed to eke out a tiny closing gain.

The British pound remained depressed, having given up its post-election gains after Johnson said he would pass a law preventing an extension to the next phase of Brexit, reviving the chances of a no-deal divorce.

- Key figures around 1640 GMT -

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.3 percent at 7,573.82 points (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 0.1 percent at 13,211.96 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.2 percent at 5,972.28 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: FLAT at 3,739.17

New York - Dow: UP 0.4 percent at 28,360.91

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.3 percent at 23,864.85 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 0.3 percent at 27,800.49 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: FLAT at 3,017.07 (close)

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3015 from $1.3078 at 2200 GMT

Euro/pound: UP at 85.45 pence from 84.98

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1121 from $1.1114

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 109.27 yen from 109.55 yen

Brent North Sea crude: UP 0.8 percent at $66.68 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.7 percent at $61.30