London - Britain's top share index steadied near three-week highs on Friday, with investors avoiding strong bets before US jobs data that could cement the Federal Reserve's likely move to cut stimulus.
At 09:48 SA time, the FTSE 100 index was 0.1 percent lower at 6,523.90 points.
The blue-chip index has gained 1.7 percent this week and remains on track to post its best weekly gain in nearly two months.
Focus will be on non-farm payroll numbers, due at 14:30 SA time, which are expected to show that 180,000 US jobs were added last month, up from 162,000 in July. However, the jobless rate is expected to hold steady at a 4-1/2-year low of 7.4 percent.
“It's going to be an important data release as the Fed has identified the level of employment as a key indicator for its monetary policy decisions and when to start tapering,” Robert Parkes, equity strategist at HSBC Securities, said.
“A much stronger than expected number might not be taken very well by the market.”
Analysts said Friday's jobs data could set the market's near term direction. Investors have been looking at data releases and comments from Fed officials to form a view on the US central bank's likely policy move, with some people expecting a cut in stimulus starting this month.
Craig Erlam, analyst at Alpari said people might not change their view on a reduction in US stimulus unless “we see some terrible figures”.
“While many would see a good non-farm payrolls figure, say above 200,000, as the final nail in the coffin for asset purchases in their current form, they won't be overly concerned by a disappointing figure.”
Investors will also keep an eye on UK economic numbers, which have surprised on the upside in the past weeks.
Focus will be on industrial and manufacturing output data for July at 10:30 SA time.
Industrial output is seen rising 0.1 percent month-on-month, while manufacturing output is likely to gain 0.3 percent.
“The market has been in a range for some time and the thing that will break us out of that trading range is earnings surprising on the upside. We think earnings will lead the market higher in the medium term as improving economic conditions will ultimately feed through into earnings numbers,” Parkes said. - Reuters