LONDON - Global stocks edged lower on Friday ahead of a monthly U.S. employment report that will confirm whether the country remains a bright spot in an otherwise languishing world economy.
KEEPING SCORE: France's CAC 40 was down 0.7 percent at 4,231.41 and Germany's DAX shed 0.6 percent to 9,781.03. Britain's FTSE 100 lost 0.5 percent to 6,535.81. U.S. shares were set for a lackluster open, with Dow and S&P 500 futures 0.3 percent lower. Asian stocks, however, posted solid gains.
JOBS REPORT: Investors are waiting for monthly U.S. employment figures due to be released later in the day, as a sign not only of the American economy's health but also as an indicator of when the Federal Reserve might start raising interest rates.
Economists forecast on average that employers added a healthy 243,000 jobs and that the unemployment rate remained at a six-year low of 5.8 percent. In November, the economy gained 321,000 jobs, the most in nearly three years.
THE QUOTE: "There is no batch of data that is viewed as being more important than the U.S. jobs report," said Craig Erlam, market analyst at Alpari in London. He says markets are likely to cheer a strong number, as investors have already accepted that interest rate increases from the Federal Reserve are on the horizon.
ENERGY: U.S. crude oil was fluctuating, edging down 21 cents to $48.58 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. A dive in the price of oil earlier in the week had sparked a big sell off in global stock markets. The price of the commodity has fallen by more than half since June last year as traders try to price in a glut of supply due to increased production.
ASIA'S DAY: Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average rose 0.2 percent to 17,197.73 and South Korea's Kospi added 1.1 percent to 1,924.70. Sydney's S&P/ASX 200 jumped 1.6 percent to 5,465.57. Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.4 percent to 23,919.85. Markets in Southeast Asia and India also rose.
CURRENCIES: The euro rose to $1.1811 from $1.1792 the previous day. The dollar fell to 119.29 yen from 119.80 yen.