By Riva Gold

U.S. stocks slipped Thursday following a modest pullback in Europe and Asia.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 22 points, or 0.1%, to 19920 shortly after the opening bell. The S&P 500 declined 0.3% and the Nasdaq Composite lost 0.3%.

Market activity has quieted ahead of the Christmas holidays, with volumes trailing off and stocks, currencies and government bonds trading in narrow ranges. The Dow industrials moved just 44.6 points between their high and low on Wednesday -- marking their narrowest trading range since Nov. 26, 2014, accordingto the WSJ Market Data Group.

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

Still, the blue-chip index is on course to have its best December since 2010. The Dow industrials are up 4.1% for the month, compared with December 2015, when they dropped 1.7%, and December 2014, when they fell less than 0.1%.

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 0.2% against the dollar to $1.0453 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 0.264% on Thursday from 0.243% Wednesday, while the 10-year U.S. Treasury note was at 2.564% from 2.554%, according to Tradeweb. Yields rise as prices fall.

"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 faster-than-expected rise in rates and tightening of monetary policy by the Federal Reserve couldcool the economy and drag down a stock market that has climbed to record highs.

Elsewhere, the Stoxx Europe 600 slipped 0.3% as the basic-resources sector declined.

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%.

Write to Riva Gold at riva.gold@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 22, 2016 10:08 ET (15:08 GMT)

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