By Riva Gold

Stocks made little headway Thursday after their longest losing streak in years.

Tightening polls in the U.S. presidential election have weighed on risk sentiment this week, while a recent downturn in the oil price depressed shares of energy companies, keeping major bourses narrowly in the red.

Futures pointed to a small opening dip for the S&P 500, following its most back-to-back declines in nearly five years.

The Stoxx Europe 600 swung between small gains and losses in morning trading and was last up 0.3% after eight consecutive sessions of losses.

In an event-packed week,investors continued to keep an eye on the course of monetary policy. The Federal Reserve left rates unchanged as widely expected in an 8-2 vote on Wednesday but signaled it could act at its meeting in December.

The Fed's policy committee "judges that the case for an increase in the federal-funds rate has continued to strengthen but decided, for the time being, to wait for some further evidence of continued progress toward its objectives," it said.

Analysts said the Fed's message did little to shift expectations for a December rate rise.

The broader WSJ Dollar Index inched down 0.1% on Thursday after falling for four sessions, while the dollar fell 0.5% against the yen to Yen102.9260.

Attention Thursday also turned to the U.K., as investors awaited a High Court ruling on whether the government can trigger an official separation from the European Union without a parliamentary signoff.

If a vote on triggering Article 50 is needed, the pound "would then aggressively head higher," according to Jordan Rochester, currency strategist at Nomura, noting the market is very sensitive right now to any improvements in the chance of a "soft" Brexit. The British pound was last up 0.3% against the dollar at $1.2335.

The Bank of England is also due to release an interest rate decision and quarterly inflation report later Thursday. The U.K. central bank cut its benchmark rate to a new low of 0.25% in August and signaled rates could go even lower if growth slowed as sharply as feared.

Since then, however, economic data has improved, and the majority of investors expect no change to interest rates at the conclusion of the November meeting.

In commodities, Brent crude oil inched up 0.7% to $47.18 a barrel after settling at its lowest price since September, while gold snapped a winning streak to fall 1%.

Earlier, Asian shares were mixed, with Japanese markets closed for a holiday. The Shanghai Composite Index advanced 0.8%, while the Hang Seng fell 0.6% and Australian shares shed 0.1%.

In company news, shares of Credit Suisse fell over 5% on Thursday after posting third-quarter results, despite a beat on expected profits. Paris-based lender Société Générale, meanwhile, gained 5% after results as its investment banking business offset a decline in retail banking. The Stoxx Europe 600 banks sector rose 0.9%, leading gains in Europe.

In the U.S., shares of Facebook slid over 6% in premarket trading after the social media company said its advertising growth would come down.

Whole Foods shares rose over 2% after the high-end grocer reported quarterly profits and said it was eliminating its dual-CEO leadership structure.

- Kate Davidson contributed to this article.

Write to Riva Gold at

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 03, 2016 06:07 ET (10:07 GMT)

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