Stock indexes wobble as investor caution offsets optimism

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A man looks at screens showing Japan's Nikkei 225 index and companies' stock prices at a securities firm in Tokyo on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021. Shares fell in Tokyo and Sydney on Friday after stocks closed nearly flat on Wall Street, while most Asian markets were closed to mark the Lunar New Year. (AP Photo/Hiro Komae)

Shares fell in Tokyo and Sydney on Friday after stocks closed nearly flat on Wall Street, though the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq composite still logged record highs.

Most Asian markets were closed to mark the Lunar New Year.

Investors remain cautiously optimistic about prospects for a new round of government aid as the economic recovery seemingly stalls.

The latest U.S. government report on jobless claims reaffirmed that employment remains a weak spot in the economy, even as vaccine distribution ramps up in the hopes of eventually ending the pandemic.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index lost 0.3% to 29,460.56 and the A&P/ASX 200 declined 0.5% to 6,814.90.

Weak economic data are serving to “fog up the glass," Stephen Innes of Axi said in a commentary.

“Global markets continue to trade mixed echoing that somber data view as participation remains muted, suggesting that investors need a bit more cajoling by more all clear economic smoke signal on the horizon before getting back in the saddle," Innes said.

Although another day of choppy trading on Wall Street left the major U.S. stock indexes nearly flat Thursday, the S&P 500 and Nasdaq composite still hit all-time highs.