European stocks closed lower in subdued trade Friday, under pressure from gloomy forecasts for the French economy while the euro was firmer as trade quietened before the long Christmas break.
Dealers said a warning from the French statistics institute that the country was likely to be in recession through to the first quarter of 2012 dampened sentiment even if it was not unexpected.
They said investors were nervous too about a possible eurozone ratings downgrade, with both Moody's and Standard and Poor's having warned the bloc is being looked at closely after a disappointing EU summit last week.
In Italy, Prime Minister Mario Monti managed to get his package of tough austerity measures through parliament via a vote of confidence, aiming to speed up implementation.
A warning by International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde that the eurozone debt crisis put the world at risk of a Great Depression attracted much attention but added little new for investors to trade on.
In London, the FTSE-100 index of top companies closed down 0.25 percent at 5,387.34 points. In Paris, the CAC-40 dropped 0.88 percent to 2,972.30 points and in Frankfurt the DAX 30 lost 0.50 percent to 5,701.78 points.
Milan finished down 0.38 percent and Madrid fell 0.57 percent.
S&P "has a habit of downgrading Europeans late on a Friday night," said Forex.com analyst Kathleen Brooks. "If it does make the move, it would not be totally out of the blue," she added.
The European single currency edged up to $1.3037, compared with $1.3017 in New York late Thursday.
In New York, the blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.34 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite gained 1.10 percent at around 1650 GMT.
Dealers said the market was getting a solid lead from the float of social games company Zynga, valued at around $7 billion.
Wall Street was helped Thursday by a series of mostly positive US economic data, especially a fall in new jobless benefit claims, suggesting the outlook is not as bad as many had feared.
Any optimism, however, is tempered by the uncertainties over the eurozone outlook.
In Asian trade earlier Friday, Tokyo gained 0.29 percent, Hong Kong rose 1.43 percent and Shanghai jumped 2.01 percent as Sydney added 0.47 percent.