European stocks drifted lower again Friday as the ongoing rout in global sovereign debt continues to pressure markets around the world ahead of what could be a pivotal employment report from the United States later in the session.
The region-wide Stoxx Europe 600 index, the broadest measure of share prices, was marked 0.26% lower at 379.39 in the opening 30 minutes of trading as investors trimmed risky equity bets and moved cash into defensive sectors such as utilities and healthcare stocks. Britain's FTSE 100 slipped 15 points, or 0.2%, while Germany's DAX performance index was seen 20 points, or 0.17% lower by 09:30 Frankfurt time.
Rising government bond yields have kept markets on edge for most of the week, with benchmark 10-year German government bond rising to an 18-month high of 0.57%, extending prices losses from yesterday following the release of minutes from the European Central Bank last rate-setting meeting that suggested the Bank is ready to begin tapering the pace of its €60 billion ($68.5 billion) a month quantitative easing program.
The moves in bonds, which began during a series of speeches in an around a retreat for central bankers and economists in Sintra, Portugal, last week, has boosted bank stocks but held down gains across most indices as investors recalibrate for faster inflation and higher borrowing costs.
Overnight in Asia, both the region-wide MSCI Asia ex-Japan index, which fell 0.2% on the session will likely close out the week with a 0.75% decline, and the Nikkei 225, which fell to a 3-week low of 19,929.09 points, were hit by both the rise in bond yields and the escalating tensions surrounding North Korea's recent missile test.
A sharp slump in global oil prices also tamed any chance of a rally in Asia shares after data showing yet another increase in the pace of U.S. crude production pushed prices below the $45 mark for the first time in two weeks.
The Energy Information Administration said late Wednesday U.S. crude inventories fell by 6.3 million barrels in the week ending June 30, while gasoline stocks declined by 3.7 million barrels to just over 237 million.
U.S. production rates, however, rose 1% to 9.34 million barrels per day, the EIA said, an increase of more than 10% from the same period last year.
West Texas Intermediate crude futures for August delivery were seen 1.3% lower from Wednesday's close at $44.89 while Brent contracts for September, the global benchmark for pricing, fell 1.25% to $47.51.
Wall Street is currently prices for a modest rebound, according to U.S. equity futures, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average set to gain around 10 points at the opening bell.
However, it will be impossible to assess the market's true direction until details from the June employment report are published at 13:30 London time, with analysts looking for a net 179,000 new jobs in the non-farm payrolls portion of the release after a gain of 138,000 in May.