The FTSE 100 was firmly in positive territory on Friday morning ahead of the crucial US employment report due out this afternoon, with traders hoping that jobs figures could beat forecasts given the solid economic data seen as of late.
The US jobs report, out at 13:30 London time, is expected to give an indication of how the world's largest economy is faring in 2013 following the disappointing growth in the fourth quarter of last year.
The consensus forecast is for a 160,000 increase in non-farm payrolls in February, slightly ahead of the 157,000 gain the month before. However, the separate ADP report on Wednesday showed that 198,000 jobs were added in February, well ahead of the 170,000 gain expected, leading many to expect another strong figure today.
"Friday's payrolls report is key to gauging the US Federal Reserve's policy course as the Fed will keep its near-zero rate stance until the unemployment rate falls to 6.5%, as long as inflation does not threaten to top 2.5%," said Max Cohen, a Financial Sales Trader from Spreadex.
Also providing some support to stocks early on was economic data from China, which sparked hopes that global demand may be recovering. China reported a 21.8% jump in exports in February, well above the 10.1% rise expected, following the strong figures the month before. Imports however missed forecasts, registering their largest drop in the last 13 months.
Financial stocks up before data
Shares in financial companies were making decent gains in early trading as risk appetite increased ahead of the US jobs report later on.
Asset management firm Schroders was providing a lift on the FTSE 100 early on after UBS upgraded its rating for the stock from 'sell' to 'neutral' and lifted its target price from 1,700p to 2,050p following yesterday's full-year results. The broker upped its forecasts for 2013 and 2014, saying that most of the headwinds that it saw three to six months ago are "reducing materially".
Banks were also performing well this morning in spite of reports that new accounting rules by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) could hit banks with billions of pounds in new losses. The IASB is expected to ask lenders to record losses far earlier in an attempt to make the financial system less prone to a crisis. Nevertheless, HSBC, Barclays and Standard Chartered were trading in the blue in the opening hour.
Insurance giant Aviva was rebounding, albeit only slightly, after plummeting on Thursday. Shares sunk yesterday as the company slashed its dividend for 2012 after swinging into the red as it took a £3.3bn write-down on a disposal in the US.
Meanwhile, telecoms group Vodafone was higher today after its New Zealand arm won a 10-year communications deal with the police, providing them will customised mobile services and smartphones.
Utilities group Centrica was among the fallers after JPMorgan Cazenove downgraded the shares
from 'overweight' to 'neutral'. While the stock remains one of the broker's top picks in the sector, it said that it is lowering its recommendation "given the shares' rerating over the last year".
FTSE 100 - Risers
Evraz (EVR) 261.00p +3.04%
Schroders (SDR) 2,125.00p +1.87%
HSBC Holdings (HSBA) 730.60p +1.73%
Standard Chartered (STAN) 1,814.00p +1.68%
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 50.68p +1.64%
Vodafone Group (VOD) 181.10p +1.40%
Barclays (BARC) 312.95p +1.11%
Xstrata (XTA) 1,162.00p +1.09%
Standard Life (SL.) 376.90p +1.05%
Eurasian Natural Resources Corp. (ENRC) 347.90p +0.96%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Shire Plc (SHP) 2,048.00p -1.54%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 5,435.00p -1.45%
Tate & Lyle (TATE) 821.50p -1.26%
Aggreko (AGK) 1,921.00p -0.93%
Marks & Spencer Group (MKS) 363.50p -0.74%
Centrica (CNA) 353.60p -0.67%
Sage Group (SGE) 350.20p -0.54%
Reckitt Benckiser Group (RB.) 4,595.00p -0.45%
Diageo (DGE) 1,992.00p -0.42%
Next (NXT) 4,177.00p -0.38%
FTSE 250 - Risers
New World Resources A Shares (NWR) 251.40p +4.32%
Halma (HLMA) 513.50p +3.20%
Hunting (HTG) 931.00p +2.82%
Inmarsat (ISAT) 662.50p +2.71%
SIG (SHI) 149.20p +2.54%
Henderson Group (HGG) 167.30p +2.26%
Investec (INVP) 507.50p +2.17%
Stobart Group Ltd. (STOB) 87.00p +2.11%
Kier Group (KIE) 1,309.00p +2.03%
Cairn Energy (CNE) 292.00p +1.99%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
African Barrick Gold (ABG) 233.30p -1.97%
Big Yellow Group (BYG) 381.40p -1.24%
Menzies(John) (MNZS) 766.50p -1.10%
St. Modwen Properties (SMP) 247.30p -1.08%
Rightmove (RMV) 1,774.00p -1.00%
Vesuvius (VSVS) 392.10p -0.81%
BlackRock World Mining Trust (BRWM) 559.00p -0.80%
Alent (ALNT) 388.90p -0.79%
Atkins (WS) (ATK) 885.50p -0.78%
Wetherspoon (J.D.) (JDW) 512.50p -0.77%