European stock markets rose as investors prepared for an update on the US labour market, a crucial barometer for the future of US stimulus.
Britain’s FTSE 100 looked set to end a two day losing streak, with early gains of 0.5% to 6,723 ahead of the day’s main event, the US jobs data, which is expected by economists to show no change in the unemployment rate at 7% and that 196,000 jobs were added to the economy in December.
Investors will be watching the data to help them judge what the US federal Reserve will do next after it announced the first reduction in its bond-buying scheme in December. If the figure is around 200,000 or stronger ‘then it will vindicate the December taper decision, and tee-up the 28/29 January meeting for the announcement of a further US$10bn reduction to QE,’ commented ING Bank economist Rob Carnell.
Investors were meanwhile chewing over a report showing that China’s export growth data slowed down to a three-month low of 4.3% year on year in December, down from 12.7% in November.
Ma Xiaoping, an economist at HSBC put this mainly down to ‘high base effect distortions’. He added: ‘We expect modest improvements in external demand going forward. A rebound in import growth indicates that domestic demand expansion is still steady.’
Of London shares, Tullow Oil (TLW.L) led the FTSE 100, with shares up 2.9% to 869p, after Bloomberg reported that the company was among potential bid targets being considered by state controlled Norwegian oil firm Statoil.
Morrison (MRW.L) clawed back some of yesterday’s losses, rising nearly 3% to 241p amid a flurry of broker price target changes. Cantor upped the supermarket group to a ‘buy’ recommendation, pointing to the potential for a sell-off of company assets.
HomeServe (HSV.L) topped the FTSE 250, up 6% to 274p, after analysts at UBS raised the emergency repairs provider to a ‘buy’ rating.
Of Friday losers, ARM Holdings (ARM.L) fell 1.3% to 984p after analysts at Goldman Sachs removed the chip designer from their European conviction buy list.