European stocks hold steady as investors await US jobs data

European stocks ebbed slightly lower Friday, as losses for Swiss Re and British homebuilders hit the regional index, as investors focused on the US monthly jobs report due later, MarketWatch reports.

The Stoxx Europe 600 index was down 0.1% at 378.61, led by consumer services, healthcare and financial shares. But utility and basic material stocks printed modest gains.

The pan-European benchmark was on course for a weekly rise of 0.1%, but that modest gain would still mark the first weekly increase in three.

Swiss Re was among the biggest decliners on the Stoxx 600 Friday, with shares down 4%. The Zurich-based reinsurance company said its first-half net earnings fell to $1.21bn from $1.87bn in the year ago period. Profit took a $360m hit from claims in the wake of Cyclone Debbie, which ran through the Australian region in late March.

US nonfarm payrolls: Movement on the individual national stock indexes was listless early Friday as traders waited for the US government to issue its monthly report on jobs creation.

A MarketWatch survey of economists project the addition of 180,000 new jobs in July. The report is due at 1:30 p.m. London time, or 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time.

“Traders and investors have been eagerly waiting for the release of the non-farm payrolls figures all week,” said ADS Securities researcher Konstantinos Anthis, in a note. “Today’s NFP report might be a key turning point for the Fed and the dollar, as nothing other than an impressive reading across all of the report’s components is needed to rekindle hopes for further [rate] tightening in 2017.”

European investors closely watch US data, as stronger economic conditions across the pond also drive sentiment in Europe, and as movement in the dollar can have a knock-on effect for the euro.

“The single currency is trading in close proximity to the 1.1900 level, but if the NFP report surprises to the upside, then demand for the dollar should put the euro under pressure and drive it towards the 1.1800 support,” Anthis said.

The euro fetched $1.1884 before the data, compared with $1.1870 late Thursday in New York.

Stock movers: Royal Bank of Scotland climbed 3.3% after the lender posted its first half-year profit in three years, despite a $5.5bn US settlement.

British homebuilder Persimmon dropped 6%, while peers Barratt Developments and Taylor Wimpey each slumped 5%.

The moves came after a Property Week report said the UK government has initiated a review of the Help to Buy housing scheme. The real estate publication said the programme, which provides financial aid to first-time home buyers, could be wound down or replaced before its planned end in April 2021.

Hargreaves Lansdown fell 5% after the financial firm said it will not pay a special dividend this year, as doing so would leave it without sufficient regulatory capital surplus.

National indexes: France’s CAC 40 index was fractionally lower at 5,129.52, while Germany’s DAX 30 shed 0.1% at 12,136.70.

The UK’s FTSE 100 was up 3 points at 7,476. Spain’s IBEX 35 was less than 1 point higher at 10,549.

Data: German manufacturing orders rose 1% in June from the previous month, driven by a surge in domestic demand, according to the country’s economics ministry.

This article was published by MarketWatch

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