LONDON - Global stocks edged higher on Friday as investors cautiously awaited the release of the monthly U.S. jobs report, which will help determine whether the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates again in coming months.
Traders were also looking ahead to developments from China's National Congress, which will open this weekend with a speech by Premier Li Keqiang that is likely to downgrade the country's official growth forecast.
In European trading at 8:05 a.m. Eastern, Britain's FTSE 100 gained 1 percent to 6,193, while France's CAC 40 also rose 1 percent to 4,461. Germany's DAX was up 1.2 percent at 9,866. U.S. futures suggested a muted start for Wall Street with Dow futures and S&P futures both up around 0.2 percent.
Economists forecast that U.S. employers added 195,000 jobs in February, up from the 151,000 added in January, according to data firm FactSet. The unemployment rate is expected to remain at a low 4.9 percent. That would likely ease some concerns that the world's largest economy is losing momentum amid rising global uncertainty.
"This report will have to be a lot worse than expected to not leave the Fed in a very tight corner in terms of finding a justification for not nudging rates higher," said Marc Ostwald, analyst at ADM Investor Services. The prospect of higher rates can hurt stocks and boost the dollar.
Earlier Friday in Asian trading, Japan's Nikkei 225 index closed 0.3 percent higher at 17,015, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 1.2 percent to 20,177 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.2 percent, closing at 5.090. South Korea's Kospi edged 0.1 percent lower to 1,956. The Shanghai Composite index climbed 0.5 percent to 2,874, while shares in Southeast Asia were mixed.
China's leaders are expected to trim their growth target during the annual session of the National People's Congress, seeking more flexibility for structural reforms for the slowing, state-dominated economy. The growth target due to be announced on Saturday is expected to be a range of 6.5 to 7 percent, down from 2015's goal of about 7 percent.
The price of U.S. crude oil rose 23 cents to $34.81 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It fell 9 cents on Thursday. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oil, rose 25 cents to $37.32 a barrel.
The euro was up at $1.0973 from $1.0946 the day before while the dollar climbed to 113.72 yen from 113.62 yen.