European stocks pause before US payrolls

LONDON - Europe's main stock markets steadied on Friday as investors awaited the key non-farm payrolls data in the United States. In late morning deals, London's benchmark FTSE 100 index added just 0.04 percent to 6,560.81 points and Frankfurt's DAX 30 rose 0.12 percent to 9,267.23 points.

In Paris, the CAC 40 index dropped a marginal 0.03 percent to 4,186.76 points compared with Thursday's closing levels.

The European single currency fell slightly against the dollar and the pound.

At the end of a week that started with turmoil in global markets, traders were a lot calmer hours before the US government's Labor Department reports its non-farm payrolls (NFP) data for January.

"The markets have settled," said CMC Markets UK analyst Michael Hewson.

"There is little likelihood of anyone being prepared to show their hand on market direction (and) we expect a general sideways move as we await the US non-farms data," he added.

Asian equities rose on Friday after a strong Wall Street rally sparked by upbeat figures on the US labour market, and before the release of the payrolls numbers.

Tokyo stocks rallied 2.17 percent, Hong Kong rose 1.0 percent and Sydney won 0.68 percent.

Shanghai - on its first day open after a week-long Lunar New Year holiday - closed 0.56 percent higher.

Friday's NFP figures will be used as a gauge for the strength of the US economy and have taken on huge significance since the Federal Reserve began winding down its stimulus programme from last month.

The US central bank's recent decision to reduce the bond-buying scheme further sent world markets into a tailspin as investors worried about the impact on emerging markets.

Hopes of an upbeat set of figures Friday were boosted by data on Thursday showing new claims for US unemployment insurance benefits, which indicate the pace of layoffs across the economy, fell back last week.

In foreign exchange, the euro drifted lower after enjoying a rally on Thursday in response to the European Central Bank's decision to keep interest rates unchanged, despite fears of deflation in the eurozone.

The European single currency fell to $1.3570 on Friday, from $1.3591 late in New York on Thursday.

The euro meanwhile eased to 83.05 British pence from 83.25 pence, while the British pound rose to $1.6338 from $1.6323 on Thursday.

The price of gold gained to $1,260.71 an ounce from $1,256.50 an ounce on Thursday.

On the corporate radar on Friday, shares in ArcelorMittal surged 3.63 percent to 12.85 euros in Paris.

The steelmaker announced it slashed its net loss by a quarter last year as it turned in surprisingly strong operating figures. ArcelorMittal also reported strong progress in cutting net debt.

In Frankfurt, German airline Lufthansa named Carsten Spohr, currently head of its passenger business, to take over as chief executive in May.

The news sent Lufthansa shares flying 2.01 percent to 17.755 euros.