World stocks muted ahead of U.S. jobs report

In this Thursday, April 3, 2014, photo, Trader Dudley Devine, left, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. European stocks made modest gains Friday April 4, 2014, and Asian markets meandered as investors looked to the upcoming U.S. job report for a fresh trading cue.
AP Photo/Richard Drew

SEOUL, South Korea - European stocks made modest gains Friday and Asian markets meandered as investors looked to the upcoming U.S. job report for a fresh trading cue.

Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.4 percent to 6,674.11 while Germany's DAX added 0.2 percent to 9,645.57. France's CAC 40 was also up 0.2 percent to 4,459.32.

Wall Street appeared set for a day of moderate gains, with Dow Jones futures up 0.1 percent. S&P 500 futures added 0.2 percent.

The U.S. March jobs report will be released early Friday morning in Washington. Many economists think it will show a bounce-back in hiring by employers who held off adding staff during winter.

A strong jobs report would boost confidence that that U.S. economic recovery is on track while also reinforcing expectations that interest rate hikes are in the pipeline after the Federal Reserve ends its bond purchasing program that has provided extraordinary monetary stimulus.

Analysts forecast that employers added 195,000 jobs last month, according to a survey by FactSet. That would be the highest total in four months and up from 175,000 in February. The unemployment rate is predicted to fall to 6.6 percent from 6.7 percent in February.

Earlier in Asia, Tokyo's Nikkei 225 edged down 0.1 percent 15,063.77 and Seoul's Kospi drifted down 0.3 percent to 1,988.09. Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.2 percent to 22,510.08.

But mainland China's Shanghai Composite gained 0.7 percent to 2,058.83 while Australia's S&P ASX/200 added 0.2 percent to 5,422.80. Stocks in Indonesia were the biggest losers, down 0.8 percent ahead of elections. Other Asian markets were mostly flat.

Asia is "a market that is really keen to see a genuine improvement in U.S. data again," IG's Chief Strategist Chris Weston said in a market commentary.

In earlier trading, sentiment was mixed after the European Central Bank did not cut interest rates or announce any new stimulus measures, as some had been hoping.

On Thursday, the ECB decided to leave its main interest rate at a record-low 0.25 percent. ECB President Mario Draghi dismissed fears that consumer prices might fall in countries that use the euro common currency, but stressed that the bank was ready to act if inflation remained low.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude for May delivery was up 50 cents to $100.79 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 67 cents Thursday to close at $100.29.

The euro fell to $1.3701 from $1.3720 late Thursday. The dollar was down to 103.87 yen from 103.90 yen.