EUROPE MARKETS: European Stocks Hold Steady, With U.S. Jobs Update In Focus

By Carla Mozee, MarketWatch Features Dow Jones Newswires

Swiss Re shares pushed lower after results

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European stocks ebbed slightly lower Friday, as losses for Swiss Re AG and British home builders hit the regional index, as investors focused on the U.S. monthly jobs report due later.

The Stoxx Europe 600 index was down 0.1% at 378.61, led by consumer services, health care and financial shares. But utility and basic material stocks printed modest gains.

The pan-European benchmark was on course for a weekly rise of 0.1%, but that modest gain would still mark the first weekly increase in three.

Swiss Re AG (SSREY) was among the biggest decliners on the Stoxx 600 Friday, with shares down 4%. The Zurich-based reinsurance company said its first-half net earnings fell to $1.21 billion from $1.87 billion in the year ago period. Profit took a $360 million hit from claims in the wake of Cyclone Debbie, which ran through the Australian region in late March.

U.S. nonfarm payrolls: Movement on the individual national stock indexes was listless early Friday as traders waited for the U.S. government to issue its monthly report on jobs creation.

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A MarketWatch survey of economists project the addition of 180,000 new jobs in July (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/july-jobs-report-likely-to-show-plenty-of-new-jobs-but-no-big-wage-gains-for-workers-2017-08-03) The report is due at 1:30 p.m. London time, or 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time.

"Traders and investors have been eagerly waiting for the release of the non-farm payrolls figures all week," said ADS Securities researcher Konstantinos Anthis, in a note. "Today's NFP report might be a key turning point for the Fed and the dollar, as nothing other than an impressive reading across all of the report's components is needed to rekindle hopes for further [rate] tightening in 2017."

European investors closely watch U.S. data, as stronger economic conditions across the pond also drive sentiment in Europe, and as movement in the dollar can have a knock-on effect for the euro.

"The single currency is trading in close proximity to the 1.1900 level, but if the NFP report surprises to the upside, then demand for the dollar should put the euro under pressure and drive it towards the 1.1800 support," Anthis said.

The euro fetched $1.1884 before the data, compared with $1.1870 late Thursday in New York.

Stock movers: Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC (RBS.LN) (RBS.LN) climbed 3.3% after the lender posted its first half-year profit in three years (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/rbs-swings-to-profit-as-one-off-effect-fades-2017-08-04), despite a $5.5 billion U.S. settlement.

British home builder Persimmon PLC (PSN.LN) dropped 6%, while peers Barratt Developments PLC (BDEV.LN) and Taylor Wimpey PLC (TW.LN) slumped 5%, respectively.

The moves came after a Property Week report said the U.K. government has initiated a review of the Help to Buy housing scheme (http://www.propertyweek.com/news/help-to-buy-could-end-early-under-government-review/5090767.article). The real-estate publication said the program, which provides financial aid to first-time home buyers, could be wound down or replaced before its planned end in April 2021.

Hargreaves Lansdown PLC (HL.LN) fell 5% after the financial firm said it won't pay a special dividend this year, as doing so would leave it without sufficient regulatory capital surplus.

National indexes: France's CAC 40 index was fractionally lower at 5,129.52, while Germany's DAX 30 shed 0.1% at 12,136.70.

The U.K.'s FTSE 100 was up 3 points at 7,476. Spain's IBEX 35 was less than 1 point higher at 10,549.

See:Dovish or hawkish? BOE leaves traders confused after 'Super Thursday' (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/dovish-or-hawkish-bank-of-england-leaves-traders-confused-after-super-thursday-2017-08-03)

Data: German manufacturing orders rose 1% in June (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/german-manufacturing-orders-rise-on-home-demand-2017-08-04) from the previous month, driven by a surge in domestic demand, according to the country's economics ministry.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 04, 2017 04:50 ET (08:50 GMT)