Global stocks were mixed Thursday as oil surged, Airbnb sparkled in its stock market debut and the British pound fell on the growing risk of a no-deal Brexit.

Oil prices leapt higher as traders looked for economic activity to pick up as coronavirus vaccines are rolled out, and the enlarged OPEC+ group stuck to its deal for a smaller output hike.

The contract for Brent crude rose to $50 for the first time since March 6.

Meanwhile, the European Central Bank unveiled its latest economic forecasts after providing more stimulus to help eurozone members withstand the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Equity gains were curbed, however, by politicians' inability to reach agreements on post-Brexit trade arrangements, and by surging Covid-19 cases that offset to some extent the effect of the vaccine introduction.

Sterling slid against the euro and dollar after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen failed to find common ground in Wednesday's crunch talks.

On Thursday, however, the ECB made good on chief Christine Lagarde's indications that extra support was on the way.

The central bank boosted its main virus-fighting tool, the pandemic emergency bond-buying programme (PEPP), by 500 billion euros ($600 billion) to 1.85 trillion euros and extended the scheme from June 2021 to March 2022.

The ECB also kept its main interest rates at historic lows.

Wall Street stocks finished mixed following a disappointing spike in new applications for US unemployment benefits in a sign the latest spike in coronavirus cases is weighing on activity.

"Given COVID-19 cases and deaths are now regularly setting new highs, these reports put into question job growth in December, especially given the rapid slowdown in growth in November," said Robert Frick of Navy Federal Credit Union.

But home-sharing platform Airbnb more than doubled its IPO price to finish at $144.71. The company raised $3.4 billion in the stock offering amid a feverish rush for new shares in companies adapting to lifestyle changes imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Back in Europe, after eight months of negotiations and with just three weeks until a deadline on reaching a post-Brexit deal, Brussels and London remained stuck on various issues including fishing rights and rules for fair trade.

"We had a lively and interesting discussion on the state of play across the list of outstanding issues," von der Leyen said in a statement after dinner with Johnson at her Brussels' headquarters.

"We gained a clear understanding of each other's positions. They remain far apart."

But in subsequent remarks, Johnson warned last-gasp talks for a Brexit trade deal with the European Union could fail, and urged the public to prepare for a "no deal."

The pound has slumped on currency markets as traders adjust to the looming possibility that after five decades of integration between Britain and mainland Europe, cross-Channel trade will be subject anew to tariffs and quotas in the New Year.

Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen
Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen were unable to break the deadlock after hours of talks and agreed to extend negotiations until Sunday Photo: POOL / Olivier HOSLET

New York - Dow: DOWN 0.2 percent at 29,999.26 (close)

New York - S&P 500: DOWN 0.1 percent at 3,668.10 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: UP 0.5 percent at 12,405.81 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.5 percent at 6,599.76 points (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 0.3 percent at 13,295.73 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.1 percent at 5,549.65 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.2 percent at 3,522.31 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.2 percent at 26,756.24 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 0.4 percent at 26,410.59 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: FLAT at 3,373.28 (close)

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3299 from $1.3399 at 2200 GMT

Euro/pound: UP at 91.28 pence from 90.16 pence

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.2141 from $1.2081

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 104.22 yen from 104.23 yen

West Texas Intermediate: UP 2.8 percent at $46.78 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: UP 2.8 percent at $50.25 per barrel

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