LONDON ( The Deal) -- European markets floated gently into positive territory on Friday despite a very mixed picture in Asia overnight.
Better-than-expected German factory order figures in February and continued strength in U.K car sales suggested further growth in two of Europe's largest economies. But most attention remains focused on U.S. job creation figures due out Friday. It's assumed that the Federal Reserve's thinking on monetary policy and the taper will be influenced by nonfarm payroll figures.
Worries about the speed of the taper also played into some of the uncertainty in Asia, which followed Wall Street's pre-close hesitations of Thursday. But there was also postive news in a sharp rise in Australia's exports of iron ore to China in March, which suggests Beijing's most recent stimulus measures were well anticipated by Chinese steelmakers. Australia's ASX 200 index closed up 0.24% at 5,422.83, while in Tokyo the Nikkei 225 was down 0.05% at 15,063.77
In London, the better mood for industrial metals and ores pushed mining stocks up. Budget airline EasyJet, which recorded a 91.5% passenger load factor in March and has generally outdone its rivals, was up 2.34% by mid-morning at 1,834 pence. Royal Bank of Scotland (RS) won a rare boost from the market for luring away Credit Suisse investment banker Ewen Stevenson to be its new CFO. The RBS stock was up 1.4% at 318.30 pence.
In Spain, Banco Popular moved the market with the news that it was in talks to acquire Citibank's (C) Spanish credit card and retail banking business. Citi has 45 branches in Spain. By the end of the morning in Madrid some of the gloss had come off that announcement, but Banco Popular was still up 0.34% at 5.87 euros.