European shares inched lower today but ended the year on a higher note, amid surging Covid-19 infections around the world and on worries over the pace of global economic recovery from the pandemic.

Volumes were thin, with markets including London, Paris and Dublin trading for half a session today.

Germany, Spain and Italy were among European bourses closed for the New Year's Eve holiday.

London's FTSE 100 ended 2021 with its best annual performance in five years on the back of gains in commodity-linked and industrial stocks although the index fell in today's holiday-thinned trading.

The FTSE gained 14.3% in 2021 but underperformed their European and US peers, which have scaled multiple record highs.

The Paris CAC rocketed almost 29% this year, its best showing for more than 20 years. Germany's DAX index had ended its year yesterday, having surged nearly 16% in 2021.

Earlier in Asian trade, Hong Kong's main stocks index finished with gains as surging Chinese tech shares helped it shrug off a weak overnight lead from Wall Street.

The Hang Seng Index closed up by more than 1%, on a day when many Asian bourses - Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand - were closed for public holidays.

The Hang Seng has been the world's poorest-performing major gauge in 2021, down about 14% for the year.

Meanwhile, Wall Street closed near record highs in light trading tonight, the last trading day of 2021, and marking the second year of recovery from a global pandemic.

All three major US stock indexes scored monthly, quarterly and annual gains, notching their biggest three-year advance since 1999.