Markets move cautiously higher

Markets have moved cautiously higher ahead of non-farm payrolls, with the FTSE 100 back at its three-week highs on hopes that the US has been able to throw off recent weather-related weakness in its job reports.

After a nervy session yesterday, London equities have found a more secure footing, with budget airline easyJet doing its best to lift the gloom. easyJet has only recently celebrated the first anniversary of its admission to the FTSE 100, but it will be champagne all round for shareholders after positive traffic numbers were the icing on the cake following a 70% rise in the share price this year. On a light day for corporate news, Marks & Spencer has come under pressure following a sell-note from Goldman Sachs in which the bank cut its target price to 340p from 420p.

The focus remains entirely on the US today, as we wait to see whether the nation can bounce back from the winter slump in job creation. Although the ADP number on Wednesday was a shade below expectations, the positive revisions to February’s figure and a strong employment number in the ISM non-manufacturing PMI yesterday have bolstered expectations of a robust reading. The median estimate is 200,000, which would be above the monthly average of 194,000 seen in 2013. Some optimistic souls even posit a number closer to 250,000 or even 275,000, but most traders would prefer a figure that isn’t too strong, given the implications it would have for the Federal Reserve's monetary policy.

Yesterday saw a new intraday high for the Dow Jones, but the index was only able to register transient gains above 16,600. The finish off the lows is still a positive sign, however, setting the stage for a possible strong end to the week. Ahead of the open, we expect the Dow to start 25 points higher at 16,597.

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