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Global markets: Bumper week for shares, oil and euro as payrolls due

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[LONDON] World shares were heading for their strongest week since October as markets awaited US jobs data on Friday, while oil was shooting for a near 20 per cent rebound and the euro was on track for its biggest weekly rise since late 2013.

European stocks dipped at the open and the region's bonds made ground as investors, who have faced fluctuating sentiment over Greece's problems this week, began to square up positions ahead of the monthly US jobs data.

Economists polled by Reuters expected US employers to have taken on 234,000 workers in January, below December's increase of 252,000, but more than enough to keep the three-month average the Federal Reserve likes to look at above the 200,000 mark.

"Traders will be hoping for a Goldilocks number just above 200k, showing that the US economy is ticking over nicely, but not roaring ahead, as to invoke the Fed to start tightening (raising interest rates)," Jonathan Sudaria, a dealer at Capital Spreads, said in a note.

Traders in most asset classes were keeping moves tight, as is standard ahead of payrolls data - not wanting to be caught off-guard if the figures come in way outside the range of expectations.

Many were also just happy to catch their breath after a roller coaster start to the year, which has seen the European Central Bank fire over a trillion euros at the euro zone and central banks around the world make some jarring policy changes.

The euro eased versus the dollar to US$1.1450 in early European trading. However, though Greece's debt negotiations with the euro zone have made for a turbulent time, the single currency was clinging to a 1.45 per cent weekly gain, its best since September 2013.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said on Thursday he had been unable to find common ground with his Greek counterpart over plans by the new government in Athens to renegotiate Greece's debt and halt austerity measures.

"We were both friendly and polite ... He told me his position, which he has repeatedly said in recent days, and I tried to explain our position to him and we were not able to bridge the differences," Mr Schaeuble said.

Oil, another of the global investment benchmarks like the euro that nosedived at the end of last year, was also heading for another bumper week as was growth-attuned metal copper.

Benchmark Brent crude futures were US$1 higher on the day at US$57.77 a barrel and US crude was also up US$1 at US$51.50 a barrel. Brent has gained almost 18 per cent since last Friday and is on its strongest two-week run since 1998.

Despite the surge, growing numbers of Opec members say they expect no rapid recovery back to the US$100 a barrel level. Late on Thursday top producer Saudi Arabia cut its monthly prices for Asian buyers again.

The US payrolls data, due at 1330 GMT, are also expected to show the jobless rate staying at a 6-1/2-year low of 5.6 per cent, while average hourly earnings are forecast to rise 0.3 per cent having fallen 0.2 per cent in December.

Early Wall Street futures prices pointed to a slightly higher open for the main New York boards and US Treasury yields were steady although it was mostly time-filling ahead of the jobs figures.

The dollar edged up against a basket of currencies, albeit not the yen, as investors hoped the data would provide further clues as to when the Federal Reserve might raise interest rates. "In December, these had recorded a surprise fall which suggests we could see a countermove in January. If the wage data disappoints the going will get tough for the dollar," said Esther Reichelt, currency strategist at Commerzbank.

Asian trading was largely uneventful. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up about 0.1 per cent, on track for a weekly gain of more than one per cent.

Japan's Nikkei ended up 0.8 per cent but marked a slight weekly loss, after shedding one per cent on Thursday, while most Asian currencies were on course for weekly gains.

REUTERS