Stocks nudge higher as traders await release of US non-farm payrolls

<p>Stocks nudged higher in early trade on Friday though activity was quiet, with much of the market eyeing the latest release of US jobs data […]</p>

Stocks nudged higher in early trade on Friday though activity was quiet, with much of the market eyeing the latest release of US jobs data due out at 1.30pm GMT.

Within the first 30 minutes of European markets opening, the FTSE 100 had climbed 11 points or 0.19%, whilst the DAX and CAC both saw gains of around 0.4%, after all three indices suffered two days of straight losses.

We have started to see some tentative and somewhat speculative buys emerge after the recent two-day lull in stock prices though with all eyes on US jobs data, investor activity is likely to be quiet until the afternoon session. We are expecting to see a stronger US jobs report with non-farm payrolls growing 150,000 and private payrolls rising 160,000, though the unemployment rate may nudge slightly higher.
See the US jobs outlook report.

Leading the charge for the FTSE 100 is telecom heavyweight Vodafone, whose shares have seen early gains of just under 2% as shareholders reacted to a bullish note from Goldman Sachs on the firm. The US investment bank upgraded its view on the firm’s shares to a ‘buy’ from a previous ‘neutral’ stance, predicting that the joint venture with Verizon in the US should lift Vodafone’s free cash flow above £10 billion.

Travel and Leisure firms have also seen early gains, with Carnival shares rising 1.6% and budget airliner EasyJet’s shares rising 1.3%. EasyJet reported before the market open that traffic numbers last month grew 13.1%, though when adjusted for the dreadful weather conditions in December 2010, underlying growth in traffic was up 4%.

Financial stocks were relatively unchanged on the day, with banks flat and insurers gaining small after a dreadful few days’ performance following the huge discount offered by UniCredit in their rights issue.

For now, all eyes are towards 1.30pm for the latest US jobs report, from which UK stocks will take their lead from as the trading week closes.

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