London stocks were set to edge higher at the open on Friday ahead of the release of the US non-farm payrolls report and as investors mulled the outcome of the latest round of Sino-US talks.
The FTSE 100 was called to open eight points higher at 7,409.
US President Trump said on Thursday after a meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He that a trade deal between the two nations was about four weeks away, with some sticking points remaining. Trump said the two sides had agreed “a lot of the most difficult points” but still had some way to go.
On home turf, meanwhile, Prime Minister Theresa May is due to hold another round of talks with Labour following four and a half hours of discussions on Thursday, in a bid to break the Brexit deadlock.
This comes as European Council President Donald Tusk suggested a flexible 12-month delay to Article 50 with an option to leave the EU once the Withdrawal Agreement is ratified by parliament, and as May and Labour leader Corbyn battle with their own parties about the possibility of a second Brexit referendum.
The big focus on the macroeconomic front will be the non-farm payrolls report, unemployment report and average earnings figures due out in the US at 1330 BST.
The consensus estimate for payrolls is 170,000, which would be a huge improvement on the 25,000 increase reported in February.
CMC Markets analyst David Madden said: “The pitiful number in the last report might be a sign of weakness in the US economy, or it might be an indication the US labour market is tightening, and employers should offer higher wages in order to fill vacancies.
“The unemployment rate is expected to hold steady at 3.8%. The annual average earnings rate is tipped to remain at 3.4%, and on a monthly basis, it is expected to be 0.3%, which would be a fall from 0.4% in February. The earnings component of the report has become more important lately as US workers who earn more, are more likely to spend more. Also, a high earnings number could be construed that the labour market is tight, and that employers need to offer higher wages in order to attract staff.”
In UK corporate news, GVC Holdings grew online gaming revenues at double-digit rates while its Ladbrokes bookmaking shops had a flat first quarter ahead of the crackdown on fixed-odds betting machines that began on 1 April.
The FTSE 100 group said it expected it would be “several weeks before we can start to assess the impact” of the cutting of the FOBT maximum stake from £100 to £2, but was confident of delivering 2019 EBITDA and operating profit in-line with expectations.
Iron ore pellet maker Ferrexpo said first quarter production fell to 2.53m tonnes from 2.58m a year earlier.
Production of 65% Fe pellets from own ore was 2.43m tonnes, in line with 2018's 2.42m.