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Markets await key US jobs figures

LONDON -- Stocks rose modestly Friday in the run-up to key U.S. jobs figures that will provide insight into the state of the world's largest economy in the middle of the U.S. presidential election.

For much of the week, financial markets have been sluggish, with a raft of economic data failing to alter market expectations that the data will show the U.S. economy generated some 110,000 jobs during September.

"The market has entered its usual lockdown mode ahead of non-farm payrolls this afternoon," said Chris Beauchamp, market analyst at IG.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was up 0.3 percent at 5,846 while Germany's DAX rose 0.5 percent to 7,342. The CAC-40 in France was 0.7 percent higher at 3,427.

Wall Street was poised for a flat opening, with Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures more or less flat. How they actually open will depend on the payrolls data, which are unveiled by the government an hour before the market bell.

The dollar was also trading steadily across a range of currencies _ the euro was 0.1 percent lower at $1.3006.

The price of oil was steady after advancing in the wake of concerns of rising tensions between Turkey and Syria _ the benchmark New York rate was 74 cents lower at $90.95 a barrel.

Europe's financial crisis has for once provided relatively few distractions for markets this week, though Spain's reluctance to tap a new bond-buying facility from the European Central Bank is causing investors some concern. The yield on the country's 10-year bonds has edged back up towards the 6 percent mark, an expensive rate at which to borrow.

On Thursday night, Spain's finance minister Luis de Guindos insisted that the country "doesn't need a bailout."

While the country may not want rescue loans for its government, it may still approach the eurozone's emergency funds, which would let the ECB to start buying Spanish bonds, keeping a lid on the country's near-term borrowing rates.

De Guindos conceded that Spain was at the epicenter of Europe's debt crisis, which is entering its fourth year. In October 2009, then newly-elected Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou revealed that Greece's public finances were in even worse shape than feared.

"I would even say that the future of the battle of the euro will be waged in Spain," De Guindos told an audience at the London School of Economics.

Earlier, Asian stocks advanced, with Japan's Nikkei 225 index closing up 0.4 percent at 8,863.30 after the Bank of Japan announced no change in the country's key interest rate following a two-day policy meeting.

South Korea's Kospi gained 0.1 percent to 1,995.17 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.5 percent to 21,012.38.

Markets in China are closed for a public holiday.