By Riva Gold

U.S. stocks were poised for another muted session Thursday following a modest pullback in Europe and Asia.

Futures indicated a 5-point opening gain for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which had flirted with the 20000 milestone level on Wednesday in its tightest trading range since 2014.

Investors digested data showing U.S. gross domestic product expanded at an annual rate of 3.5% in the third quarter. The rate was revised up from last month's 3.2% estimate. Separately, durable-goods orders fell 4.6% in November from a month earlier, as aircraft orders plummeted.

In corporate news, shares in Apple fell 0.3% in U.S. premarket trading, while Nokia's shares were down nearly 4% in Europe after Apple and the Finnish telecommunications-equipment maker filed competing lawsuits over intellectual property.

Market activity was otherwise quiet ahead of the Christmas holidays, with volumes trailing off and currencies and government bonds trading in narrow ranges.

"With just two sessions until the Christmas break, few traders want to open new positions," said Lee Wild, stockbroker at Interactive Investor.

The Stoxx Europe 600 was down 0.1% in afternoon trading as the basic-resources sector led declines. Falling base-metal prices weighed on mining companies, with copper futures down 1.2% at $5,438 a ton.

Investors were also focused on the fate of Italy's Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA. The lender swung between gains and losses in morning trading and was last down 3.4% after falling 12% Wednesday as it struggled to sell fresh shares and avert a government bailout.

The bank needs to complete its rescue plan by the end of the year as part of a major balance-sheet cleanup agreed with the European Central Bank.

Shares in Asia mostly fell in thin holiday trading, with Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index down 0.8% and Japan's Nikkei Stock Average off 0.1%, pulled lower by financial stocks. Australian shares advanced 0.5%.

In currencies, the WSJ Dollar Index edged up 0.1% after settling at its second-highest level this year. The British pound fell 0.3% to $1.2334, while the euro rose 0.1% against the dollar to $1.0446 after falling around 4% so far this year.

"Unlike sterling, where we've at least had a fleeting sight of all-time lows, we're still a way off for the euro," said Simon Derrick, chief currency strategist at BNY Mellon. The difference in yield between European and U.S. government bonds is steep, putting the euro at risk of falling sharply next year, he said.

The 10-year German bund yield nudged up to 0.263% on Thursday from 0.243% Wednesday, while the 10-year U.S. Treasury note was at 2.558% from 2.554%, a recovery of 1.177 percentage points from its July 8 low. Yields move inversely to prices.

"The roller coaster we've witnessed in the interest-rates market has been pretty epic -- we hit generational lows [in yields] midyear, and just as quickly...have given back all of those gains and more," said Mark Heppenstall, chief investment officer at Penn Mutual Asset Management.

He expects yields to continue to rise next year, given the potential for fiscal stimulus in the U.S. to boost a strengthening economy. "I don't think we're at that point yet, but if we move north of 3% on the 10-year [Treasury] note, equity investors are going to stand up and take notice, " he said.

Some are concerned that a fast appreciation of rates and tightening of monetary policy by the Federal Reserve could cool the economy and drag down a stock market that has climbed to record highs.

--Giovanni Legorano and Ese Erheriene contributed to this article.

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(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 22, 2016 09:18 ET (14:18 GMT)

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