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London open: stocks fall as investors await US jobs report

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Stocks opened broadly lower on Friday morning with investors refraining from building positions ahead of the all-important US jobs report due out this afternoon.

The report is seen as a deciding factor in the Federal Reserve’s impending withdrawal of stimulus.

US data released Thursday threw more weight behind the argument to begin tapering asset purchases at the Fed’s next meeting later this month – jobless claims fell more than forecasts, factory orders declined less than expected and the ISM non-manufacturing index smashed estimates.

However, given that the Fed has explicitly called for an improvement in labour-market conditions before it begins to scale back quantitative easing, analysts will be watching the August employment report – due out on later this afternoon – very carefully.

Consensus estimates are for a 180,000 increase in non-farm payrolls last month, up from the 162,000 gain in July. The unemployment rate is expected to remain unchanged at 7.4%, though this has already fallen speedily from 7.9% in January.

“As is usually the case with nonfarm payroll day it’s all about the big figure and what effect it’ll have on the financial markets,” said Chief Economist Simon Smith from FxPro.

“The USD has been attracting some buyers over the past couple of weeks, some looking to get into the currency for safe-haven reasons, but others because the expectations of tapering have been augmented following the good run of economic data we’ve seen.”

The G20 meeting in St Petersburg continues today and will no doubt also be at the back of investors’ minds given that the hot topic amongst world leaders is the potential US military intervention in Syria following last month’s alleged chemical weapons attack. “With the US senate moving forward on US unification on Syria the outcome of G20 is likely to cause high volatility today,” said Financial Sales Trader Alex Conroy from Spreadex.

Tullow Oil rose strongly after revealing that the Wisting Central exploration well has made the first-ever oil discovery in the 20%-owned Hoop-Maud Basin in the Barents Sea offshore Norway. The oil and gas explorer said the well, which was drilled to a total depth of 905m and a water depth of 373m, had discovered 50m to 60m of net light oil pay in good quality relatively shallow middle to lower Jurassic reservoir rocks.

B&Q and Screwfix owner Kingfisher was in the red early on after Morgan Stanley downgraded the stock ahead of its first-half results due next Wednesday. The US bank cut its rating to ‘underweight’ but left its 300p target price unchanged.

Engineering and project management company AMEC declined despite scoring a contract with TAQA for work on the Tern oil production platform in the North Sea.

Airline group easyJet and IAG were continuing to recover after heavy falls on Wednesday following a profit warning from sector peer Ryanair. Improved traffic statistics for both FTSE 100-listed stocks over recent days have helped share prices to rebound.

A host of miners were trading lower as risk appetite was scaled back ahead of the US data later on. Anglo American, Fresnillo, ENRC, BHP Billiton and Randgold Resources were all in the red this morning.

Source: ShareCast

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