The bear and bull statues outside the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. Picture: BLOOMBERG/ALEX KRAUS
The bear and bull statues outside the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. Picture: BLOOMBERG/ALEX KRAUS

London — Stock markets held near record highs on Friday and the dollar sank to a one-month low as investors prepared to recalculate their Fed tapering bets on the back of US payrolls data later in the day.

With little in the way of corporate news in Europe, the Stoxx index of 600 European companies was flat at 474.30 points, close to its record high of 476.16 points touched last month.

MSCI's all-country world index, which had ended the previous session at its fifth consecutive closing high, inched 0.13% higher on Friday.

“The market is resilient with record highs in the US again last night, and the data this week has been fairly solid, with nothing to suggest we are getting a significant slowdown in Europe, the UK or the US,” said Michael Hewson, chief markets analyst at CMC Markets.

“Now it's all about whether the payroll data arrests the decline of the dollar.”

US non-farm payrolls in August, due at 12.30pm GMT ahead of Wall Street's open, are expected to have risen by 750,000, according to a Reuters poll of economists - weaker than the 943,000 in July.

But estimates range widely, from as little as 375,000 to over a million, and the US central bank has made a labour market recovery a condition for paring back the pandemic-era asset purchases.

“When it comes to tapering the focus is now the labour market. If we’re in the area of 750,000 the expectation will be for a September tapering announcement,” said Stefan Hofer, Hong Kong-based chief investment strategist at LGT private bank.

Hofer said he was focused on leisure and hospitality jobs as they were a good indicator of the state of the recovery from the pandemic.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against six peers, was little changed at 92.207 after earlier touching 92.151 for the first time since Aug. 5.

US stock futures were up 0.2%.

Japan jumps, China eases

Japanese shares jumped after officials said Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga would step down, setting the stage for a new premier after a one-year tenure marred by an unpopular Covid-19 response and rapidly dwindling public support.

Japan's TOPIX stock index rose to a 30-year high and was last up 1.61%, with the Nikkei gaining 2%. Asian shares are still off their peaks from earlier in the year however, and lagging those elsewhere.

Meanwhile, Chinese blue chips were down 0.5% and Hong Kong was off 0.78% after activity in China's services sector slumped into sharp contraction in August, a private survey showed on Friday, hurt by restrictions imposed to curb the Covid-19 Delta variant.

US treasuries have been cautious ahead of the payrolls data and the yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes was last at 1.297% compared with its US close of 1.294% on Thursday.

The European single currency touched its highest level since early August against the greenback early in Asian hours on Friday, as markets start to react to the potential for more sustained eurozone inflation and reduced stimulus from the European Central Bank, which meets next week.

Oil prices were mixed as traders squared positions ahead of the payrolls data, but were set for small weekly gains.

US crude dipped 0.14% to $69.89 a barrel. Brent crude edged up 0.1% to $73.11 per barrel.

Gold gained 0.12% to $1,812 an ounce.



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