US jobs relief wears off in markets

PAN PYLAS, AP Business Writer

LONDON -- Stocks drifted lower Friday after big gains the day, when U.S. jobs figures came in stronger than expected, and as investors awaited earnings from major banks, starting with JP Morgan Chase & Co.

A sharp fall in U.S. jobless claims last week to 339,000 shored up markets on Thursday and helped investors look past another downgrade of Spain's debt.

The attention will remain on the U.S. on Friday, with JP Morgan and Wells Fargo Bank poised to kick off the earnings season for the banks. Overall, earnings results have so far been lackluster.

"On the upside, poor third quarter earnings have been priced into the markets now so unless we see a dramatic reduction in profits we shouldn't see too major an impact," said James Hughes, chief market analyst at Alpari. "On the other hand we're unlikely to see too much of a rally either because investors will be cautious as they wait to see just how bad earnings are."

As a result, trading so far Friday was subdued.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was down 0.3 percent at 5,815 while Germany's DAX fell 0.4 percent to 7,251. The CAC-40 in France was 0.4 percent lower at 3,400.

Wall Street was poised for a steady open, with both Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures up 0.1 percent. However, the picture could change as the earnings statements are due for release before the market opening bell.

Trading was steady in other markets too, with the euro up 0.3 percent at $1.2967 and the benchmark oil price down 31 cents at $91.76 a barrel.

Earlier in Asia, markets were mixed by the close.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index ended a bad week with another 0.2 percent decline to 8,534.12. Telephone company Softbank led the way lower after it plunged 16.9 percent on news that it is in talks to take a substantial stake in U.S. carrier Sprint Nextel Corp.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng advanced 0.7 percent to 21,136.43 and South Korea's Kospi was flat at 1,933.26.