LONDON (Reuters) – A dip in figures on China’s non-manufacturing sector helped dampen financial markets optimism on Friday ahead of U.S. jobs data that will offer more clues on the strength of the world’s top economy.
European shares and the euro traded within a narrow range, with nerves over the completion of a deal between Greece and its creditors – due on Monday – also helping dampen sentiment after a bullish start to the year.
The nonfarm payrolls report will be a key catalyst for shares as strong data would fuel growing hopes the global economy is on a firm recovery path, while a disappointing numbers could add pressure on the U.S. Federal Reserve to stimulate the economy, support appetite for riskier assets.
“A weak read will probably be interpreted as an indication that QE3 (a third round of quantitative easing) is needed to help the recovery,” Cameron Peacock, market analyst at IG Markets, said.
U.S. non-farm payrolls are forecast to rise by 150,000 after a 200,000 increase in December, with the unemployment rate seen static at 8.5 percent.
The MSCI world equity index, which despite the euro zone debt crisis is up nearly 7.4 percent this year was off about 0.8 percent at 321.62.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index .FTEU3 of top European shares opened barely changed at 1058.51, just off six-month highs.
“Markets are taking cheer that America is improving. Companies are strong, but they don’t yet have the confidence to invest,” said Justin Urquhart Stewart, director at Seven Investment Management.
Investors are also on watch for possible monetary easing measures to be announced in China after the latest economic data showed the official Purchasing Managers Index for non-manufacturing sectors dipping to 52.9 in January from 56.0 in December.
The euro and the Australian dollar struggled to make much headway in Asia on Friday as the Chinese data weighed on sentiment. The euro was flat at around $1.3150, after hitting an intraday low of $1.3114 in Asia and just below six week highs of $1.3235 seen earlier this week.
(Additional reporting by Brian Gorman; editing by Patrick Graham)