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While you were sleeping: Oil extends rebound

Disappointing US manufacturing and consumer spending data weighed on equities, offsetting a rebound in energy stocks along with oil prices.

The Institute for Supply Management's index fell more than expected to 53.5 last month, from 55.1 in December, while Commerce Department report showed consumer spending dropped 0.3 percent in December, following a 0.5 percent increase in November. It was the largest decline in more than five years.

Still, the data failed to dim optimism about the US economic outlook.

"What we're seeing is a moderation rather than any major deterioration," Gennadiy Goldberg, US strategist at TD Securities USA in New York, told Bloomberg Business. "The weak global backdrop along with the stronger dollar is not very positive for US exporters. We still have very strong domestic demand, which is a big positive."

In afternoon trading in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 0.04 percent. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index rose 0.35 percent, while the Nasdaq Composite Index added 0.09 percent. Stocks were fluctuating from positive to negative throughout the session.

In the Dow declines in shares of Home Depot and those of Boeing, down 0.9 percent and 0.8 percent respectively, offset gains in shares of Chevron and those of Verizon Communications, up 1.6 percent and 1.5 percent respectively.

Shares of Exxon Mobil gained after the company posted a drop in profit that was smaller than analysts had expected. Still, not everyone took that as a positive.

"I think the quality of the earnings beat is questionable," Brian Youngberg, an oil analyst at Edward Jones in St. Louis, told Reuters. "Some net tax effects and Venezuela really drove the beat. They remain growth challenged."

Oil prices continued their rebound, with Brent climbing as much as 5 percent. Brent for March settlement gained 0.8 percent to US$53.40 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange after earlier touching US$55.62.

"There were a lot of people on the sidelines waiting for an opportunity to buy," Bjarne Schieldrop, chief commodity analyst at SEB, told Reuters. "Brent has struggled sideways for a long time but it closed above the 20-day moving average on Friday for the first time since July, and the rig count is falling sharply. So now they think, maybe this is the time to buy."

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index ended the session with an advance of almost 0.1 percent from the previous close. The UK's FTSE 100 Index gained 0.5 percent, as did France's CAC 40 Index, while Germany's DAX Index climbed 1.3 percent.

With Greece's new anti-austerity government, there are concerns such parties might gain control in other struggling euro-zone nations too-most notably Spain and Italy.

"Greece will be a continuing problem, which will concern markets until they come to some agreement," Andrea Williams, who helps oversee about US$123 billion at Royal London Asset Management in London, told Bloomberg Business. "The more concerning issue would be if the anti-austerity parties gained votes in the bigger economies like Spain and Italy."