LONDON (AP) — Global stock markets were soft Friday ahead of monthly U.S. employment figures that often set the market tone for a week or two after their release. Oil prices were also in the spotlight, extending gains further above $50 a barrel.
KEEPING SCORE: In Europe, Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.2 percent to 6,850 while Germany's DAX dropped 0.6 percent to 10,835. France's CAC 40 fell 0.4 percent to 4,687. U.S. stocks were poised for a solid opening, with Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures up 0.2 percent.
US JOBS FOCUS: How U.S. markets open will largely hinge on the monthly nonfarm payrolls figures, which are released an hour before the Wall Street bell. Economists estimate that employers added 230,000 jobs in January, down from 252,000 in December. While some analysts say that the data will not be a game changer, the Federal Reserve has emphasized the job market recovery as an important factor when it considers a rate hike. The dollar could be a key mover in the wake of the figures. Ahead of the data, it was flat, with the euro unchanged at $1.1465 and the dollar down 0.2 percent at 117.27 yen.
ANALYST TAKE: "Anything too high has the potential to push the Fed into rate hikes sooner than had been expected, whilst a weak print could be interpreted as confirmation that the U.S. economic recovery is now stalling," said Tony Cross, market analyst at Trustnet Direct.
GREECE MEETING: Greece also remains a key focus in financial markets as the new Greek government tries to forge a new deal on the country's debts with its partners in the 19-country eurozone. On Friday, it was confirmed that the finance ministers of the so-called Eurogroup are to hold a special meeting next Wednesday to discuss Greece's debts, a day ahead of a summit of European Union leaders. Greek shares were down Friday amid ongoing jitters over how the discussions will pan out — the main Athens index was down 1 percent.
OIL REBOUND: Oil prices extended their gains Friday, with the benchmark New York rate up $1.55 at $52.03 a barrel. Brent, the international standard, was up $1.60 at $58.19 a barrel. "Oil prices appear to have formed a base for the time being," said Fawad Razaqzada, a technical analyst at Forex.com.
ASIA'S DAY: Japan's Nikkei 225 gained 0.8 percent to 17,648.50 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng was down 0.4 percent to 24,679.39. South Korea's Kospi added 0.1 percent to 1,955.52 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.2 percent to 5,820.20.