London: European shares were little changed in early trade ahead of the release of fresh US jobs data later on Friday, while the euro also paused for breath after bouncing from a 2-1/2 month low.
Traders were unwilling to take big positions in either asset class ahead of the much-watched payrolls data, and were seeking further evidence about the extent of European Central Bank bond buying, which had fuelled markets in the previous session.
Bund futures opened flat, with traders waiting to see if the ECB buys bonds in any size, in spite of the bank’s president, Jean-Claude Trichet, refusing to respond to market speculation that it would mount a much more aggressive bond-buying programme.
“It’s really all about what the ECB does today. The ECB really are the only buyer,” a trader said.
After previously rallying on talk of the ECB bond buying, in the hope it would help shore up confidence in the euro zone periphery, the single currency was steady in early trade on Friday, hovering around a key technical resistance level.
The euro was trading at $1.3236 at 1:20pm, above a 2-1/2 month low hit on Tuesday and just below its 100-day moving average and below key resistance at $1.3334-64, its August peak and a 38.2 percent retracement of the June-November rally.
“I suspect the euro has bottomed out in the near term and will test $1.33-34,” said a trader at a Japanese brokerage house.
The benchmark FTSEurofirst 300 share index opened marginally higher, after closing the previous session at a two-week high, a move that could be extended if the U.S. jobs data is positive, London-based Justin Urquhart Stewart, director at Seven Investment Management, said.
“There’s a positive tone to the market, despite all the negative news on sovereign debt ... If the payrolls are positive, it could easily push the market even higher,” he said.
A strong overnight showing in US stock markets had slowed by the close of play in Asia, with gains of just 0.1% in the Nikkei, mostly on buying in technology shares.
JOBS IN FOCUS
Oil was steady near 25-month highs following a slew of upbeat US economic data that boded well for demand from the world’s top user, and ahead of the jobs report which is expected to show employment expanded for a second straight month in November.
Nonfarm payrolls are forecast to have risen 140,000, with private hiring increasing by more than 100,000 for a fifth straight month in November, according to a Reuters survey.
The unemployment rate is forecast to have held steady at 9.6%.
Such a positive reading would add further weight to the notion the country’s recovery is picking up pace, and follows data showing the number of jobless benefits claimants hit a two-year low last week.
Service sector surveys from the euro zone will also be watched.