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European Stocks Flat Ahead of U.S. Jobs Data

LONDON (The Deal) -- European stock indices tread water on Friday and Asian markets ended the day largely in the green as the world waited for April employment figures in the U.S.

Meanwhile, the threat of tougher sanctions against Russian interests loomed after  pro-Russian separatists in the east of Ukraine reportedly shot down Ukrainian helicopters, killing two pilots, and the west-leaning government in Kiev prepared to take military action.  President Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were due to meet later in Washington to discuss sanctions.

The final incarnation of Markit's Purchasing Managers' Index for the eurozone in April came in slightly higher than a previous estimate and pointed to economic growth. But March eurozone unemployment held resolutely at a rate of 11.8%, European Commission figures showed. The Commission's statistics arm noted that youth unemployment is still rising.

In the U.S.  analysts were predicting a 210,000-odd rise in private sector jobs in April, up from an increase of 192,000 in March.  The nonfarm payroll figures, out at 8.30 a.m. EDT, will be watched especially closely after the disappointing first-quarter GDP numbers released on Wednesday.

In London, the FTSE 100 was up 0.08% at 6,814.45. It has risen every day this week. In Frankfurt the DAX was down 0.01% at 9,601.89 and in Paris the CAC 40 lost 0.33% to 4,472.80. Markets in Frankfurt, Paris and most other European centers had been closed for the May Day holiday on Thursday.

In London, AstraZeneca (AZN) fell after Pfizer (PFE) said it had raised its indicative cash-and-stock bid to 5,000 pence per share, or about 63.1 billion pounds ($106.6 billion), which it said is a 39% premium to the company's share price on Jan. 3, just before Pfizer made its first approach. AstraZeneca said its board is reviewing the offer, while Pfizer's chairman and CEO continued to court politicians with an open letter to British Prime Minister David Cameron making various pledges.

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) was up well over 9% after announcing  first-quarter results that were far better than expected. Profit rose to 1.2 billion pounds from 393 million pounds a year earlier thanks to falling write-downs.

InterContinental Hotels Group also rose more than 9% after a well-received quarterly earnings report.

In Paris, GDF Suez gained a booster after UBS analysts upgraded its recommendation to buy from hold.

In Frankfurt, Deutsche Telekom led the DAX higher on investors' first opportunity to react to positive Thursday earning figures from affiliate T-Mobile USA (TMUS).

In Tokyo the Nikkei closed down 0.19% at 14,457.51 and in Hong Kong the Hang Seng, which was closed on Thursday, gained 0.57% to close at 22,260.67. Casinos operator Galaxy Entertainment rose after official figures from Macau pointed to brisk business in April from its six casinos operators.

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