Still bruised from a turbulent first quarter, investors took their
cue from the Japanese data rather than more encouraging figures from
Europe's main indices fell as much as 2 percent, following a 3.5
percent slide in Japan's Nikkei <.N225>, its steepest daily fall
since mid-February. Shares fell across Asia, and U.S. stock futures
signaled about a 0.5 percent decline when trading opens <ESc1>
The dollar was on the back foot, with the euro trading above $1.14 -
its highest since October, and oil was down 2 percent, below $40 a
"The focus appears to be on the negative. A too-strong euro is
keeping the lid on any upside in European equities and the best
performing sector in Q1 - the basic resource sector - is beginning
to give up its gains," said Brenda Kelly, head analyst at London
The pan-European index of leading 300 shares fell 2 percent to
a one-month low of 1,298 points, Germany's DAX and France's
CAC 40 were also down 2 percent, while Britain's FTSE 100 was
down 1.2 percent.
Insurance stocks were among the biggest decliners, led by a 10
percent fall in Zurich Insurance, as its shares traded without the
attraction of its latest dividend payout.
Earlier, a profit-dampening rise in the yen and hedge fund selling
for the new financial year hit Japanese stocks. But the real blow
came from the Bank of Japan's survey of major manufacturers which
found sentiment at its lowest in nearly three years.
The report crystallized concerns that the BOJ's shift to negative
rates was not working. It also outweighed positive surveys from
China that showed factory activity growing for the first time in
nine months and a much needed pick-up in services.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan lost 1.4
ROLL ON PAYROLLS
In the first quarter, stocks plunged on global growth fears then
rebounded as major central banks took ever more aggressive stimulus
The latest twist was this week's surprisingly dovish tone from
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, which saw investors further
scale back expectations for how far and fast U.S. interest rates
would rise in future.
Fed fund futures <0#FF:> currently have one quarter-point increase
priced in by December. Yields on two-year Treasury paper were down
at one-month lows around 0.73 percent before edging back up to 0.75
[to top of second column]
Indeed, U.S. Treasuries enjoyed their best quarter in 4 1/2 years.
Yields on 10-year notes dropped 50 basis points in the three months
The focus on Friday was on the March U.S. employment report.
Economists expect an increase of 205,000 jobs, an unchanged
unemployment rate of 4.9 percent and a rise in average earnings of
0.2 percent in the month.
"A rate hike in April looks extremely unlikely, especially with
Yellen in the dovish camp, but another strong jobs report today
could make the June meeting much more interesting," said Craig Erlam,
senior market analyst at Oanda.
The greenback suffered its largest quarterly percentage loss in more
than five years. The dollar index against a basket of major
currencies lost 4.1 percent and on Thursday hit its lowest since
mid-October. It was last trading steady at 94.620.
The euro was up 0.4 percent at $1.1423, its highest in 5 1/2 months.
The dollar fell a similar amount against the yen to 112.05 yen.
It was as high as 113.80 early in the week.
Worries about oil oversupply seemed to dominate in Asia on Friday.
U.S. crude fell 2.1 percent to $37.53 a barrel, while Brent
also dropped 2.1 percent to $39.49. [O/R]
Gold was steadier at $1,231.70 an ounce, after notching up its
biggest quarterly gain in nearly 30 years.
(Reporting by Jamie McGeever; Editing by Hugh Lawson)
[© 2016 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2016 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.