LONDON MARKETS: Oil's Comeback Helps Lift FTSE 100 Ahead Of U.S. Jobs Report

By Carla Mozee, MarketWatch Features Dow Jones Newswires

Pearson shares soar; M&S names new chairman

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U.K. stocks turned slightly higher Friday, as oil prices came fighting back from heavy losses, with the monthly update on the U.S. labor market in focus.

The FTSE 100 index was up 0.1% at 7,258.00. They had opened with a loss, pulled down by a decline for oil shares as crude prices fell nearly 1%.

Shares of airlines were on the rise after financial updates, and Pearson PLC shares surged after the publisher revealed its latest moves in its restructuring.

The moves on the London benchmark came ahead of the widely watched U.S. jobs report for April, due at 8.30 a.m. Eastern Time, or 1.30 p.m. in London. That nonfarm payrolls data is closely watched as a gauge of the health of the world's largest economy.

"Today's main focus is expected to be on the latest U.S. employment report, after the Federal Reserve unsurprisingly kept rates on hold at its meeting on Wednesday," said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, in a note.

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"The tone of the statement was interpreted in a very hawkish fashion by the market, in so much as fed fund futures are pricing the prospect of a move in June as a done deal, with an over 90% probability," he said.

Read:Hiring rebound? What to watch in April jobs report (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/hiring-rebound-what-to-watch-in-april-jobs-report-2017-05-04)

Ahead of the report, the pound bought $1.2931 compared with $1.2924 late Thursday in New York.

For the week, which was shortened by Monday's Bank Holiday, the FTSE 100 was on course for a 0.7% increase.

Oil rollercoaster: Oil prices have been hit this week by expectations for a recovery in Libyan crude production and a rise in U.S. output. But after stumbling to their lowest level since late November early in Friday's session, crude prices have turned higher.

In London, shares in oil producer BP PLC (BP.LN) (BP.LN) were up 0.1% after losing more than 1% at the start of the session. Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSB.LN) (RDSB.LN) shares flipped higher, trading up by 0.9%. The oil group makes up 14% of the FTSE 100's weighting.

Read:OPEC faces high-stakes decision as oil drops for the week (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/opec-faces-high-stakes-decision-as-oil-drops-to-5-month-low-2017-05-04)

While U.S. oil futures are staging a comeback from their earlier slide on Friday, they are still facing a roughly 9% slide for the week, while Brent is on track for a nearly 8% fall.

Metal decline: Commodity prices have also been pummeled this week, with analysts saying Chinese demand concerns (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/chinese-metals-prices-slide-on-demand-fears-2017-05-04) have been a source of pressure for the metals complex.

But shares of miners turned higher as metals prices caught a break from this week's selling.

Glencore PLC (GLEN.LN) moved up 1.9%, Antofagasta PLC (ANTO.LN) tacked on 0.7%, and iron ore and copper miner Anglo American PLC (AAL.LN) swung up 0.5%.

But Fresnillo PLC (FRES.LN) and Randgold Resources PLC (RRS.LN) extended gains, rising 3.3% and 2.7%, respectively, as gold futures moved modestly higher. The precious metal was still looking at a nearly 3% weekly decline.

Read: Chinese metals prices slide on demand fears (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/chinese-metals-prices-slide-on-demand-fears-2017-05-04)

Stock movers: Pearson PLC shares (PSON.LN) soared 12% after the education and publishing company said it would launch a review of its struggling U.S. learning-products business (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/pearson-shares-surge-on-us-review-cost-cut-plan-2017-05-05) and announced more cost savings.

International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (IAG.LN) climbed 4.5% after the British Airways said first-quarter operating profit rose slightly to 170 million euros (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/iag-profit-edges-higher-on-lower-fuel-costs-2017-05-05). The company also stuck to its outlook for an improvement in operating profit this year.

Shares of EasyJet PLC (EZJ.LN) gained 3.1% after the company posted an 11.7% rise in passenger numbers in April.

Smith & Nephew PLC (SN.LN) rose 3.7% after the medical devices maker backed its full-year outlook (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/smith-nephew-revenue-unchanged-2017-05-05) even as first-quarter revenue was flat.

Marks & Spencer Group PLC (MKS.LN) shares popped up 5.3% after the department-store operator named Archie Norman as its new chairman (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/marks-spencer-names-norman-as-non-exec-chairman-2017-05-05), with effect from Sept. 1. Norman has served as the chief executive of Asda, which is Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s (WMT) British arm.

French vote: Also in focus for investors is Sunday's presidential election in France (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/brace-for-market-mayhem-if-le-pen-unexpectedly-wins-french-presidency-2017-05-04). Independent centrist Emmanuel Macron, who's favored in the markets, is expected to win against far-right euroskeptic Marine Le Pen.

See: Brace for market mayhem if Le Pen unexpectedly wins French presidency (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/brace-for-market-mayhem-if-le-pen-unexpectedly-wins-french-presidency-2017-05-04)

Also: European shares are a buy -- but watch for this Trump risk: Eaton Vance (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/european-equities-a-buy-but-trump-policy-inaction-a-risk-eaton-vance-2017-05-03)

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 05, 2017 05:02 ET (09:02 GMT)