LONDON -- Investors were cautious on Friday ahead of U.S. jobs figures, with stocks down slightly after enjoying a couple of bumper days on hopes of a Europe-wide plan to fix the banking sector.
After a week of wild gyrations stemming from Europe's debt crisis, investors are turning their attention to the U.S. government's jobs report for September -- the payrolls data often set the market tone for a week or two after their release.
Following last month's unexpectedly flat outcome and a raft of better than anticipated economic data, hopes are that the U.S. economy generated around 60,000 jobs during September, though some in the markets think it could be double that. That's still low and not enough to get the unemployment rate down from the 9.1% level.
"Modest job gains will do little to alleviate concerns about the pace of recovery, however, with the risk of recession remaining all too real," said Mitul Kotecha, an analyst at Credit Agricole.Those concerns have dominated European trading following two big days of gains. Earlier, Asian shares advanced following the previous day's continuing advance. Germany's DAX was down 0.2% at 5,631 while the CAC-40 in France fell 0.5% to 3,062. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was 0.4% lower at 5,272, with Lloyds Banking Group (LYG) and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) underperforming in the wake of a downgrade of their credit ratings from Moody's. Wall Street was poised for a modestly lower opening, too -- Dow futures fell 0.3% to 11,015 while the broader Standard & Poor's 500 futures fell the same rate to 1,154. Trading in currency markets was also subdued ahead of the figures, with the euro unchanged at $1.3426 and the dollar flat at 76.77 yen. Beyond the U.S. figures, investors will continue to digest developments in Europe's debt crisis. Over the past couple of days, there have been mounting hopes that European policymakers are preparing a plan to shore up the banking sector in the event of a Greek debt default. Thursday's decisions by the Bank of England to launch new monetary stimulus and a big liquidity operation from the European Central Bank have also helped support investor sentiment.