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In a nutshell, it’s US jobs day, and…

    • Treasury yields at fresh highs
    • Market expects 190,000 jobs added in US in February
    • Equities firm after Wall St dip from record levels
    • Oil prices steady after sell-off, WTI stays below $50

    Equity markets are broadly positive as a small recovery in oil prices lifts energy stocks, while Treasuries remain under pressure ahead of a US jobs report that could fuel expectations the Federal Reserve will accelerate the pace of interest rate rises.

    The firmer US dollar is pushing the Japanese yen through ¥115 and forcing the price of gold to its cheapest in five weeks.

    Hot topic
    The US non-farm payrolls (NFP) report is due for release at 13:30 GMT on Friday and unless it shows extremely weak jobs growth then the market will continue to consider the chances of a Federal Reserve rate hike next week are nailed on.

    Analysts are forecasting 190,000 positions will have been created in February, according to Reuters’ consensus, but traders are probably expecting a higher number given the private sector ADP survey released midweek showed 298,000 jobs added last month.

    Indeed, should the NFP report show that the US labour market is picking up steam, then it may add to pressure on the Fed to quicken the pace of its monetary tightening, shortening the odds of another rate rise in early summer. Currently, the CME‘s FedWatch tool sees a 42 per cent probability of a 25 basis point hike in June.

    The dollar and Treasury yields have been rising in anticipation of tighter Fed policy. The dollar index, which measures the buck against a basket of its peers, is up 0.1 per cent to 101.94, just shy of the 14-year high of 103.82 hit at the start of the year.

    Policy-sensitive US 2-year government bond yields are up one basis point to 1.38 per cent, holding at seven-year highs. The 10-year Treasury yield is up 1bp to 2.61 per cent, near its highest since September 2014. (Yields rise when prices fall.)

    What to watch
    Can the US oil contract reclaim the $50 a barrel mark, or will that level now act as a troubling ceiling for energy bulls?

    West Texas Intermediate, the US crude marker, is up 0.9 per cent to $49.71 a barrel, and Brent, the international energy benchmark, is adding 0.7 per cent to $52.57 as the oil market strives to recover from a few days of savage selling.

    WTI fell 7.3 per cent over Wednesday and Thursday to settle below $50 for the first time since December, as the market found its recent calm shattered by news that US oil stockpiles had jumped to record levels, raising fears that Opec’s recent agreement to cut production was easily being counteracted by increased output from US drillers.

    The CBOE Oil Vix index, which measures implied volatility for the WTI contract, has jumped more than 20 per cent over the past two sessions as speculators who had built up heavy bullish oil price bets scrambled to cover their positions, boosting trading volumes.

    The Draghi effect
    The euro is continuing to rise following mildly hawkish remarks from European Central Bank president Mario Draghi on Wednesday, gaining 0.2 per cent to $1.0601.

    Sterling is down 0.1 per cent to $1.2157, hovering near seven-week lows as the prospect of another Scottish referendum on secession adds to Brexit uncertainty.

    The Japanese yen is the major currency feeling the greatest force of the greenback’s recent rally as investors contrast the Fed’s tightening with the Bank of Japan’s continued easing mode. The dollar is up 0.4 per cent to ¥115.39, leaving the yen at its weakest since mid January.

    The Australian dollar is up 0.2 per cent at $0.7518 following the release of data showing growth in Australian home loans accelerated in February as lending for property investment rebounded.

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