Stocks Tick Higher Ahead of Jobs Report

By Riva Gold and Lucy Craymer Features Dow Jones Newswires

Economists expect 179,000 new jobs were added in August

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-- Nikkei ends six-week losing streak

-- Dollar, bond yields steady

Stocks started the month a touch higher Friday ahead of the U.S. jobs report, a key gauge of the world's largest economy.

Futures pointed to small opening gains on Wall Street after strong economic data helped push stocks higher on Thursday. Japanese and Australian stocks notched modest gains while the Stoxx Europe 600 rose 0.4% in the early minutes of trading after posting a third consecutive monthly decline in August.

Shares of Volvo AB climbed 6.7%, leading gains in Europe after the auto maker announced new financial targets.

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The euro edged down 0.2% to $1.1885 early Friday, also alleviating pressure on European stocks. Investors pulled the most from European equity funds since February in the week through Wednesday amid concerns about this month's meeting of the European Central Bank and a recent climb in the euro to a 2 1/2 year high, according to EPFR Global.

The WSJ Dollar Index, which tracks the dollar against a basket of 16 currencies, edged up 0.1% on Friday.

A better-than-expected number on the day's monthly U.S. employment reading could see the dollar undo the past day's reversal, said Tim Kelleher, head of foreign-exchange institutional training at ASB Bank in New Zealand.

Many investors say they will be watching wage growth figures in particular to gauge the outlook for monetary policy in the months to come.

"You're not getting a lot of wage growth," said Anish Chopra, equities and fixed income specialist at Portfolio Management Corp. "If you look at what the Fed can do, I don't think there's much more room they have to move up [rates], because there's very little inflation that's out there," he said.

Investors currently see just a roughly 37% chance of a rate rise by the end of December, according to Fed-funds futures tracked by CME Group.

Yields on 10-year Treasurys edged up to 2.128% from 2.122% on Thursday. Yields move inversely to prices.

Earlier, Asian shares were mostly a touch firmer, with China gaining slightly after a private gauge of Chinese factory activity rose for the third straight month in August.

"Sentiment is positive in China," said Will Leung, head of investment strategy at Standard Chartered Wealth Management. He noted people are optimistic that Chinese economic data due next week will also show improvement after a soft batch of readings for July.

The Shanghai Composite Index was last up 0.2%, while stocks in Shenzhen added 0.4%.

Japan's Nikkei Stock Average ended the day up just 0.2% but ended a six-week losing streak, its longest since early 2014.

Australia's S&P ASX 200 edged up 0.2% while Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.2% and markets in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines were closed Friday for a holiday.

Write to Riva Gold at riva.gold@wsj.com and Lucy Craymer at Lucy.Craymer@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

September 01, 2017 03:54 ET (07:54 GMT)