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Europe: shares close up from lows after US jobs data

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[LONDON] European stocks rallied from lows on Friday after a stronger than anticipated increase in earnings in a flagship US jobs report made up for a weaker-than-forecast payrolls figure.

The benchmark STOXX 600 index posted its best weekly performance since the middle of December as it turned higher following the non-farm payrolls report.

US employment increased less than expected in December but a rebound in wages pointed to sustained labor market momentum that sets up the economy for stronger growth and further interest rate increases from the Federal Reserve this year.

The STOXX 600, which had been down 0.4 per cent ahead of the data, closed down just 0.1 per cent.

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Britain's commodity-heavy FTSE 100 index ended up 0.2 per cent, and posted its highest closing level ever. It also posted a fifth straight week of gains.

The STOXX 600 remained 0.4 per cent down from a one-year high set earlier this week, but was still up 1.1 per cent this week.

The index is up around 12 per cent from November's lows, as investors have bet that the election of Republican Donald Trump as US president might result in fiscal stimulus, buoying growth and inflation globally.

"The big upward revision to November and a 2.9 per cent increase in average hourly wages are going to be enough to let markets keep their faith in the Trump reflation trade, and the US Federal Reserve plans further interest rate increases,"said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.

Precious metals miners Fresnillo and Randgold Resources fell 3.5 per cent and 2.8 per cent respectively after gold slipped from one-month peaks, hindered by dollar strength.

UBS analyst Daniel Major stayed positive on the sector's outlook. "Despite the uncertain gold price backdrop, looking into 2017 the European gold miners are in good shape from a cost and balance sheet perspective," he said.

Large-cap gold miners including Randgold and Fresnillo also faced less pressure than some of their peers to lift capex to replace depleting reserves and offset declining production over the next 2-3 years, he said.

Danish payments firm Nets dropped 3.1 per cent and heading for its biggest decline since its IPO in September after a downgrade to "sell" from "hold" by Danske Bank.

Shares in Fiat Chrysler Automobiles gained 7 per cent, the biggest riser in the STOXX 600 index, after Goldman Sachs added the stock to its "Conviction List" and raised its target price to 16.5 euros from 9.9 euros.

"In our view the market significantly underappreciates FCA's ability to improve its NAFTA (North America) price-mix via shifting production away from mass-market cars and into more profitable vehicles," Goldman Sachs analysts said in a note.