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US, European stocks near flat ahead of US jobs data

NEW YORK – US and European stocks finished near flat Thursday as the market awaited a key US jobs report that investors hope will ease fears of slowing global growth, AFP reports.

The April US jobs report, which will be released Friday, comes on the heels of largely disappointing economic releases this week in the eurozone, China and the US.

Those releases have left investors fearful that the already sluggish rate of global growth is becoming even more tortoise-like.

“Global growth fears seem to be edging up again,” Deutsche Bank analysts said in a note.

“Overall sentiment remains negative as uncertainty concerning global growth, a potential US rate hike in the third quarter and disappointing corporate earnings continue to take a toll on markets,” said Markus Huber, trader at City of London Markets.

Trade was choppy with stocks climbing as oil prices surged at one point due to outages connected to a huge wildfire near Canada’s producing region. Oil prices later retreated from session peaks, but still ended in positive territory.

Bourses in London and Frankfurt posted small gains, while Paris and the broad based S&P 500 in the US retreated a bit.

None of these markets moved more than 0.2 percent.

“I don’t think anyone wants to take a position ahead of the jobs data
tomorrow,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at First Standard Financial.

“Tomorrow could mean the end of the pullback or the pullback accelerating.”

Analysts expect the US Department of Labor data to show the US added 207,000 jobs in April, down from 215,000 jobs in March.

David Levy, portfolio manager at Republic Wealth Advisors, said investors are looking for a sign the US economy will pick up in the second quarter after first-quarter growth was estimated at just 0.5 percent.

“We’re muddling along, but we have yet to have anything that mirrors any kind of escape velocity,” Levy said.

The dollar gained against both the euro and the yen for the third straight day.

“How good does the report need to be for the dollar to rise to fresh highs?” asked Kathy Lien, analyst at BK Asset Management. That is the “hundred million dollar question.”

Lien predicted the absolute number of jobs added would be less important to the dollar’s course than data on wage growth and unemployment. If either of those benchmarks fall short, the greenback could retreat again, she said.

– Key figures around 2100 GMT –

New York – Dow: UP 0.1 percent at 17,660.71 (close)
New York – S&P 500: DOWN less than 0.1 percent at 2,050.63 (close)
New York – Nasdaq: DOWN 0.2 at 4,717.09 (close)
London – FTSE 100: UP 0.1 percent at 6,117.25 (close)
Frankfurt – DAX 30: UP 0.2 percent at 9,851.86 (close)
Paris – CAC 40: DOWN 0.1 percent at 4,319.46 (close)
EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.1 percent at 2,940.35 (close)
Hong Kong: DOWN 0.4 percent at 20,449.82 (close)
Shanghai: UP 0.2 percent at 2,997.84 (close)
Tokyo: Nikkei 225: Closed for public holiday
Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1404 from $1.1488 Wednesday
Dollar/yen: UP at 107.26 yen from 107.03 yen

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