European stocks higher but Asian shares mixed


LONDON/HONG KONG–European stock markets rebounded on Friday as traders awaited key jobs data due out of the United States. Markets also assessed the economic outlook for the eurozone and Britain, a day after the European Central Bank (ECB) and Bank of England held their interest rates steady. London’s benchmark FTSE 100 index climbed 0.87 percent to 6,749.55 points nearing the half-way stage on Friday. Frankfurt’s DAX 30 grew 0.81 percent to 9,498.06 points and the CAC 40 in Paris gained 0.65 percent to 4,252.42 points in midday deals. European indices had closed down on Thursday, with investors unimpressed by the ECB’s pledge to act if necessary to ward off deflation or a credit crunch, analysts said. “Looking ahead to the U.S. session … it is all about this year’s first non-farm payrolls figures and the U.S. unemployment levels,” said Alastair McCaig, market analyst at IG traders. “As we round off the first full week of 2014, the outlook is just a touch clearer. We have now had the opportunity to digest the minutes of … (the) meeting at which the Fed finally pulled the trigger on tapering.

Asian markets were mixed Friday following another weak lead from Wall Street as investors await the release of key U.S. jobs data, while Shanghai eased after China said its trade surplus shrank in December. The euro edged back up against the dollar and yen after a brief fall on Thursday fuelled by a warning from the head of the European Central Bank (ECB) that the eurozone economy remained fragile. Tokyo rebounded from earlier losses thanks to a pick-up in the dollar against the yen. The Nikkei ended 0.20 percent, or 31.73 points, higher at 15,912.06 and Hong Kong closed up 0.26 percent, or 58.92 points, to 22,846.25. However, Seoul finished down 0.39 percent, shedding 7.57 points to 1,938.54 and Sydney eased 0.23 percent, or 12.0 points, to 5,312.4. Shanghai fell 0.71 percent, or 14.32 points, to 2,013.30. With the U.S. Federal Reserve holding its next policy meeting at the end of the month, investors are closely monitoring Friday’s jobs data to see if it will give the central bank more ammunition to further cut its stimulus. The Fed’s most recent meeting saw it reduce its bond-buying scheme by US$10 billion a month to US$75 billion from January. On Wall Street, the three main indexes ended mostly lower, with disappointing earnings from retailers adding some downward pressure.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 17.98 (0.11 percent) to 16,444.76. The broad-based S&P 500 edged 0.64 (0.03 percent) higher to 1,838.13, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 9.42 (0.23 percent) to 4,156.19. Draghi’s Words After announcing the bank would keep interest rates on hold despite the low inflation figures, Draghi said the bloc’s “recovery is there, but it is weak, modest and fragile”. He added that there remained “several risks — financial, economic, geopolitical, political — that could undermine easily this recovery”.