Markets buoyed by upbeat US jobs news

Markets buoyed by upbeat US jobs data; euro hit by recession, Greece fears

Associated Press

LONDON (AP) -- Stronger than expected U.S. jobs figures gave markets a boost Friday in the last major economic news release before the country's presidential election.

The Labor Department reported that the U.S. economy generated 171,000 jobs in October, higher than the 125,000 or so expected in the markets. The unemployment rate, which is based on a separate survey, rose to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent, but that was in line with predictions.

As a result, President Barack Obama and his rival Mitt Romney will each have something to cling onto in the final days of their campaigning before Tuesday's election.

Overall, this week's economic indicators, which also showed a rise in consumer confidence and a bounce-back in the housing market, are likely provide some last-minute support for Obama.

"A better than expected payrolls number continues the recent run of better economic data from the U.S., and should boost the Obama campaign," said Ian Kernohan, an analyst at Royal London Asset Management.

Following the data's release, European stock markets pushed higher, while Wall Street futures turned positive.

The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was trading 0.2 percent higher at 5,874 while Germany's DAX rose 0.5 percent to 7,370. The CAC-40 in France was up 0.4 percent at 3,489.

On Wall Street, Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures were up 0.3 percent.

Elsewhere, the dollar garnered further strength after the data, especially against the euro, which was weighed down by poor manufacturing figures for the 17-country eurozone. By midafternoon London time, the euro was 0.7 percent lower at $1.2855.

The fall in the October purchasing managers index — a gauge of business activity — fell to 45.4 in October from 46.1 in September. Anything below 50 indicates a contraction in activity. Particularly worrying was that most of the euro countries are seeing their manufacturing sectors contract, including Germany and France.

The euro is also being weighed down by worries over Greece, with signs that the coalition government is fracturing ahead of a parliamentary vote next week on a €13.5 billion package of spending cuts and tax increases that are required by international creditors in return for giving the country more bailout cash.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has said the country will start running out of money by the middle of the month, so the clock is ticking.

"It all looks very fragile," said Neil MacKinnon, global macro strategist at VTB Capital.

Earlier in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 index advanced 1.2 percent to close at 9,051.22. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 1.3 percent to 22,111.33 and South Korea's Kospi gained 1.1 percent to 1,918.72.

Oil prices gave up most of the previous session's gains — benchmark oil for December delivery fell 70 cents to $86.39 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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