Markets Rise On Hopes for U.S. Jobs Improvement

European stocks rose on Friday as investors
set aside concerns about the euro’s debt crisis to focus on the
impending release of monthly U.S. jobs data, which many hope will
confirm a mild recovery in the world’s largest economy.


Asian market indexes
closed lower as they reacted to poor economic and financial indicators
out of Europe the previous day. That stream of poor European data
continued on Friday, with new information showing a drop in retail sales
and economic sentiment among consumers and businesses. Unemployment in
the 17-nation eurozone, meanwhile, remained at a worrying 10.3 percent.

Traders
expect 2012 to be a tough one for Europe, as it slides back toward
recession, and appeared relieved to have more upbeat U.S. economic
indicators to focus on Friday.

Analysts are
projecting hiring gains of about 150,000 when the U.S. Labor Department
issues the December jobs report. That would mark a six-month stretch in
which the economy generated 100,000 jobs or more in each month.
Expectations of the data rose on Thursday, when the private payrolls
agency ADP said its own calculations for hiring gains were much stronger
than forecast.

An improvement in the U.S.
labor market is crucial for global markets because American consumer
spending accounts for a fifth of the world’s economic activity. A
recovery in the U.S. would also mitigate the impact of the sharp
slowdown in Europe.

Britain’s FTSE 100 rose
0.4 percent to 5,644.55, while Germany’s DAX rose 0.6 percent to
6,131.25. France’s CAC-40 rose 0.8 percent to 3,170.85. Ahead of the
opening bell on Wall Street, Dow Jones futures rose almost 0.1 percent
to 12,334 and S&P 500 futures gained 0.1 percent to 1,274.50.

Although
upbeat U.S. data could push stocks higher, gains were likely to be
limited by the lingering fears about Europe’s debt crisis. Italy’s
benchmark 10-year bond yield edged further above 7 percent, a borrowing
rate that is considered unsustainable over the longer term.

Italy,
along with many other European governments, has to roll over huge
amounts of debt in coming months. It is trying to restore investor
confidence in its public finances to get those bond yields down and pay
lower rates when it auctions its bonds to raise cash from capital
markets.

Traders will watch comments from
Italian Premier Mario Monti, who will hold talks in Paris with French
President Nicolas Sarkozy on Friday.

Banks,
meanwhile, are hurting due to fears that they will take big losses on
their holdings of government debt and will struggle to raise new cash to
plug those holes.

Trading in UniCredit,
Italy’s largest bank, was halted on Thursday after the stock lost a
quarter of its value in two days. The bank said Wednesday it would need
to offer huge discounts to investors to raise money in a new share sale.
The stock was down another 11 percent on Friday.

Longer-term
concerns about the euro and the region’s financial system pushed the
common currency to 15-month lows on Thursday. It recovered slightly on
Friday, rising 0.1 percent to $1.2808.

Outside
the eurozone, Hungary was sliding deeper into its own financial crisis.
It had to pay a staggeringly high interest rate of 10 percent on its
12-month debt. That is far above the 7 percent level that forced Greece
and Portugal to seek emergency bailouts to prevent them from defaulting
on their debts.

Investor confidence in the
country has deteriorated to the point that the country is considering
asking the International Monetary Fund for a standby rescue loan.

Asian
indexes ended mostly lower as they reacted to the previous day’s
European market jitters. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index closed 1.2 percent
lower at 8,390.35. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 1.2 percent at
18,593.06 and South Korea’s Kospi fell 1.1 percent to 1,843.14.
Benchmarks in Taiwan and Indonesia also fell. India and Singapore rose.

In
mainland China, the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.7
percent to 2,163.39, while the smaller Shenzhen Composite Index gained
0.5 percent to 817.78.

Japanese stocks are
hurt by the yen’s rise against the dollar, which makes exports less
competitive internationally. On Friday, the dollar dropped another 0.1
percent to 77.07 yen.

Benchmark oil for
February delivery rose 60 cents to $102.41 per barrel in electronic
trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell by $1.41
to end Thursday at $101.81 in New York.

Pamela Sampson in Bangkok contributed to this report.

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