European Stocks Fall

European Stocks Fall

The FINANCIAL -- Global investors struck a cautious note Friday ahead of the release of a much anticipated U.S. jobs report.

European stocks fell in early trade following a mixed performance in Asian bourses, where Chinese and Japanese markets rose while Australian shares struggled, according to Nasdaq.

The Stoxx Europe 600 index fell 0.2% after the release of disappointing industrial and export data across several eurozone countries.

In Germany, Europe's largest economy, industrial production in June fell 1.4% from the previous month, while exports were down 1.0%. Industrial production also fell in Italy and France.

Germany's DAX index was down 0.1%. France's CAC 40 index dropped 0.1% and the U.K.'sFTSE 100 index was roughly flat.

"The economic backdrop in Europe is improving, but it's a slow and sluggish improvement," said Mark Hargraves, a fund manager at Axa Investment Managers, which oversees €689 billion ($751.61 billion) in assets.

"Europe has had a good start to the year. This is a reminder we shouldn't get carried away," he said.

In the U.S., futures indicated a steady start for the S&P 500. The index fell on Thursday led by shares of media companies, which have reported a series of disappointing earnings. Changes in futures aren't necessarily reflected in market moves after the opening bell.

Investors are looking ahead to the release of the July U.S. jobs report later Friday as they try to gauge when the U.S. Federal Reserve will raise interest rates for the first time in almost a decade. The health of the labor market is a key factor in the Federal Reserve's decision when to raise rates.

"This is an important number," said Jim Reid, a strategist at Deutsche Bank AG.

The creation of more than 200,000 jobs in July, if repeated in August, would provide the Fed with the justification to raise rates in September, he said.

"If we dip below, then there would be enough ambiguity for them to remain on hold," said Mr. Reid.

Economists on average expect that the U.S. economy added 215,000 jobs in July, according to a survey by The Wall Street Journal.

In currency markets, the euro was steady against the U.S. dollar at $1.0926.

In Asia, Australian shares were dragged down for a second day in a row by falls in financial-sector stocks on expectations that the country's biggest banks will announce plans to raise more capital. The S&P ASX 200 index was down 2.4%.

In China, the Shanghai Composite Index rose 2.3%, after falling around 1% Thursday. Investors are still trying to gauge government support for the stock market, which fell steeply earlier this summer. The index is up 2.2% this week.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 0.3%.

In commodities, Brent crude oil rose 0.5% to $49.79 a barrel. Gold was 0.1% higher at $1091.20 a troy ounce.