European shares, dollar dip ahead of payrolls

By Marc Jones

LONDON (Reuters) – More weak data from Europe ensured shares worldwide were set to end their first full week of 2015 in the red on Friday, while both the dollar and oil prices dipped as investors waited for monthly U.S. jobs data.

Friday’s jobs report is expected to show that non-farm payrolls increased by 240,000 in December. That would mark the 11th consecutive month of job gains above 200,000, the longest stretch since 1994.

A deluge of U.S. data this week has already bolstered expectations the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates for the first time in almost a decade around the middle of the year and has sent the dollar <.DXY> soaring to a nine-year high.

“At the moment the U.S. is the only party on the street,” said Kully Samra at Charles Schwab in London. “Where else are you going to go for growth.”

Europe though continues to paint a much bleaker picture. German exports fell sharply and industrial output declined in November new figures showed. Industrial production also fell in France and Spain’s reading was revised down.

The region’s share markets opened down 0.3 percent <.FTEU3> led by a 10 percent drop in Spain and the euro zone’s biggest bank Santander after it conducted a 7.5 billion euro ($ 8.8 billion) capital increase and dividend cut.

National benchmark indexes in London <.FTSE>, Paris <.FCHI> and Frankfurt <.GDAXI> were down 0.1 to 0.3 percent, while in the currency market the euro was broadly flat, buying just above $ 1.18 after its fourth straight week of falls.

Equities worldwide suffered deep losses early this week as plunging oil prices and global growth woes triggered investor flight from risk assets. But optimism about the U.S. economy and prospects of more stimulus from the European Central Bank and China have diffused risk aversion for the time being.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> eked out a 0.7 percent rise overnight but had faded late on as Chinese shares <.SSEC><.CSI300>, last year’s global star performers, gave up gains.

“With worries over the Chinese economy slowing down and risks from Greece still in place, further evidence of continuing recovery in the U.S. economy will be needed if risk appetite is to recover fully,” said Junichi Ishikawa, market analyst at IG Securitieso.


A strong non-farm reading would strengthen prospects of the Federal Reserve hiking rates later this year and again highlight the contrast in policies between the ECB, now facing euro zone deflation and seen on the brink of adopting quantitative easing.

Euro zone government bond yields held just above record lows ahead of the U.S. data. About a quarter of the whole euro zone bond market is now yielding less than 10 basis points.

The dollar, which hit a nine-year high on Thursday, was trading at $ 1.18 to the euro and at 119.39 yen in early European deals, having come back from a three-week low of 118.05 yen struck on Tuesday when risk aversion favored the safe-haven Japanese currency.

Like in the euro zone, the grip of falling prices is now becoming evident even in China. Data on Friday showed inflation in the world’s second largest economy hovered close to a five-year low. That could give policymakers more room to cut rates.

Providing another source of relief for still wary global markets, crude oil prices held their ground after a 10 percent loss earlier in the week. [O/R]

U.S. crude oil gained 8 cents to $ 48.83 a barrel after plumbing a 5-1/2-year low of $ 46.83 on Wednesday. Brent ticked down to $ 50.62. Both have fallen for all but one of the last 15 weeks.

Tanking prices have started taking a toll on the once booming U.S. shale oil and gas producers.

WBH Energy, a small Texas producer, filed for bankruptcy protection this week, becoming what may be the first, and unlikely the last, American company of its kind to do so since crude prices started sliding six months ago.

“Without any changes to fundamentals, selling appears largely to be jittery investors looking for supply-demand equilibrium,” ANZ analysts said in a note.

(Reporting by Marc Jones; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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