World stocks mixed ahead of US jobs report

Associated Press
A man checks his mobile phone in front of an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012 as Japan's Nikkei 225 index, top center, rose 78.60 points to 9,547.44.  Asian stock markets remained in a holding pattern Thursday as investors assessed President Barack Obama's comments that reaching a budget deal to prevent the U.S. from a possible recession was "not that tough" and could even be done quickly. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

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BANGKOK (AP) — World stock markets were mixed Friday ahead of the release of a closely watched U.S. employment report that is expected to reflect a downturn in hiring following a massive storm that whipped the East Coast last month.

The Labor Department will release November's job figures later Friday. Private economists expect the figures will show a weakening job market in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. Some employers might also have delayed hiring as they wait to see if Congress and the White House reach a budget deal to water down automatic tax increases and spending cuts that will take effect in January. The unemployment rate is expected to remain 7.9 percent.

European stocks and U.S. futures fell. Britain's FTSE 100 slipped 0.1 percent to 5,898.67. Germany's DAX was also marginally down at 7,530.30. France's CAC-40 dropped 0.1 percent to 3,600.26. Dow Jones industrial futures shed 0.1 percent to 13,057 and S&P 500 futures lost 0.1 percent to 1,411.50.

Some stock markets in Asia withered following early gains. After opening higher, Japan's Nikkei 225 index ended the day 0.2 percent down at 9,527.39. South Korea's Kospi added 0.4 percent to 1,957.45. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.9 percent to 4,551.80. Hong Kong's Hang Seng reversed course and closed down 0.3 percent to 22,191.17.

Mainland Chinese shares posted substantial gains after recent sharp sell-offs. The Shanghai Composite Index climbed 1.6 percent to 2,061.79. The smaller Shenzhen Composite Index jumped 2.1 percent to 786.05.

Chris Weston of IG Markets in Melbourne said the upcoming release on Sunday of inflation, retail sales and factory output data from China is expected to point to a modestly improving economy. That helped boost mainland stocks.

"China is seeing modest buying, which could be a sign that investors there are hoping to see further signs of a recovery in this Sunday's data dump," said Weston.

Traders were also looking forward to next week's meeting of Federal Reserve policymakers. Weston said he expected Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke to announce new measures to replace Operation Twist, a program under which the Fed sells $45 billion a month in short-term Treasurys and then buys an equal amount of long-term securities. The program expires in December.

"If it doesn't get announced, then there are real risks that we'll see a sizeable sell-off in risk assets," he said.

On Thursday, the European Central Bank said that the economies of 17 countries that use the euro will contract next year. The central bank stopped short of offering new measures to boost growth and left its key interest rate unchanged at a record low.

The combined economy of the euro countries is in a recession after a massive debt crisis followed by government spending cuts and tax hikes that have hurt growth.

"Although the ECB left policy rates unchanged the post ECB meeting press conference effectively opened the door to a rate cut in Q1 next year following sharp downward revisions to growth projections and well below target inflation projected over the medium term," said analysts at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong.

Among individual stocks, Japan's Sharp Corp. shot up 8.5 percent a day after news reports said the struggling electronics firm will start selling U.S. solar power company SunPower Corp.'s household solar panels to strengthen its own solar panel business.

Benchmark oil for January delivery was up 19 cents to $86.45 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.62, or 1.8 percent, to finish at $86.26 per barrel in New York on Thursday.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.2930 from $1.2963 late Thursday in New York. The dollar rose to 82.36 yen from 82.36 yen.


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AP researcher Fu Ting contributed from Shanghai.

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