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European stocks hold firm before weekend

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

European stock markets edged higher on Friday in cautious deals, with investors anxious over the ongoing US government shutdown heading into the weekend.

Key US non-farm payrolls data had been scheduled for publication on Friday afternoon, but the shutdown has prevented the Labor Department's data collection and release.

In late morning deals, London's benchmark FTSE 100 index rose 0.12 percent to 6,456.71 points and Frankfurt's DAX 30 added 0.06 percent to 8,602.74 while in Paris the CAC 40 won 0.56 percent to 4,151.30 points.

"Without the non-farm payroll data this afternoon, markets look likely to meander into the close as we await news over the weekend as to when an end to the impasse might come," said CMC analyst Nick Dale-Lace.

Asian equities however fell on Friday as a budget deadlock in Washington showed no signs of ending, with some investors growing nervous that the stalemate could trigger a damaging debt default.

Hong Kong stocks fell 0.33 percent, Tokyo shed 0.94 percent and Sydney dropped 0.51 percent lower, while Shanghai was shut for a public holiday.

The US government remained mostly closed for the third straight day Thursday as a result of the budget stand-off.

Concerns over the shutdown had sent US stocks down across the board on Thursday, with the Dow Jones closing below 15,000 for the first time in a month.

"Until there are some positives from the US with regards to the political gridlock it seems that the market is just going to drift," added Ronnie Chopra, head of strategy at brokerage Tradenext.

"It does not help that it is October which is a notorious month for crashes (1929 and 1987) but fundamentals for UK companies seem good and no doubt if there are further falls in the market fund managers and institutions awash with cash will buy heavily."

As the stand-off entered its fourth day, optimism that Republicans and Democrats would find an early solution to the crisis is giving way to fears over the potentially devastating impact of a default on the world economy.

With both sides unwilling to give ground -- Democrats refuse to yield to Republican demands that a budget deal be linked to cuts to President Barack Obama's healthcare bill -- investors are increasingly worried about how long the crisis will drag on.

While there are concerns about impact of the shutdown on the US economy, the major worry is that politicians will fail to agree on raising the country's borrowing limit by the October 17 deadline.

Failure to increase the debt limit will see Washington run out of cash, leaving it unable to pay its bills or service its debt obligations.

"The partial government shutdown continues, and fears start to loom over the possibility of raising the nations federal debt limit, with many investors worried over the possible detrimental consequences if the US were to default on its debt," added Capital Spreads dealer Jonathan Sudaria.

President Barack Obama meanwhile scrapped Thursday plans to attend two key Asian summits, blaming the shutdown for the cancellation of a tour designed to advance a central prong of his foreign policy.

In foreign exchange deals on Friday,the European single currency eased to $1.3613, down from $1.3618 in New York late Thursday, when it had hit an eight-month peak at $1.3646 on relief over Italy's easing political turmoil. The dollar dipped to 97.12 yen from 97.27 yen.

Sterling rose to 84.51 pence to the euro and declined to $1.6103.

In commodity deals on the London Bullion Market, the price of gold was unchanged at $1,316 an ounce.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131004/european-stocks-hold-firm-weekend