A month-long rally for US markets has hit a hump, with a negative trading session reflecting uncertainty fuelled by mixed economic data.

A report showing another increase in orders of durable goods, such as cars and home appliances, in the United States has been offset by figures showing a drop in pending home sales.

However, there was a silver lining for tech stocks, with Apple shares gaining more than 2 per cent as buyers return to the computer giant after the disappointment of last week's quarterly results.

That helped the Nasdaq to close up 5 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 3,154.

It was the only bright spot though, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.1 per cent, or 14 points, to 1,882.

The broader S&P 500 fell 3 points, or nearly 0.2 per cent, to 1,500.

European markets closed flat overnight, held back by data from the European Central Bank.

The figures showed bank lending to eurozone companies contracted again in December.

Economists also have negative expectations for another measure of Europe's real economy, employment data, with a Bloomberg survey finding analysts expect the unemployment rate to rise to just under 12 per cent.

In spite of that, London's FTSE 100 index gained 10 points to 6,294.

France's CAC 40 also posted a slight gain, but the German DAX slipped 0.3 per cent.

Local futures trade are pointing to a negative start to Australian trading.

At 8:00am (AEDT) the ASX SPI 200 was down 3 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 4,830.

On the commodity markets, West Texas crude oil was up at $US96.26 a barrel, while the spot gold price had slipped to $US1,655 an ounce.

The Australian dollar was weaker against the greenback. At 8:45am (AEDT) it was buying around 104.14 US cents.

The local dollar was also worth around 94.52 Japanese yen, 77.42 euro cents, 66.37 UK pence and 124.98 New Zealand cents.

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