* Currency pulls back ahead of key jobs data on Friday
* Dollar dip gives boost to emerging markets
* Mood more muted in Europe
* Many markets set to be shut for Easter weekend (Adds UK data)
By Lionel Laurent
LONDON, April 2 (Reuters) – The dollar lost ground on Thursday, the last trading day of the week for many markets ahead of Easter, after disappointing U.S. economic data on Wednesday raised doubts over the growth outlook ahead of key jobs data due out on Friday.
Although non-farm payrolls are expected to show an increase of 245,000 jobs in March, according to economists polled by Reuters, Wednesday’s data hit U.S. equities and reinforced concerns that the dollar’s recent rally has weighed on exports.
Thursday’s pullback in the U.S. dollar index, which is still up some 8 percent year-to-date, gave a boost to emerging-market stocks — trading at a one-month high — as main emerging currencies strengthened against the dollar.
The mood was more muted in Europe, where the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 equity index slipped 0.2 percent and euro zone bond yields traded broadly flat.
“People are reluctant to chase the market higher today because of the U.S. payrolls coming tomorrow when Europe will be closed,” FXCM market analyst Vincent Ganne said.
“Following (Wednesday’s) figures, there are some worries that the payrolls could be soft.”
The UK FTSE 100 share index outperformed, with shares of British retailer Marks & Spencer up 5.8 percent after the company posted its best non-food sales performance for nearly four years.
Traders added that UK construction data had also supported the FTSE 100. While growth in Britain’s construction industry slowed in March, confidence in the sector surged to a nine-year high.
Most U.S. markets will be closed on Friday, with some European markets closed Friday through Monday and reopening on Tuesday. Indian markets were closed on Thursday.
Asia shrugged off the U.S. doubts, with MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan up 0.8 percent.
Australian shares finished up 0.7 percent, on growing expectations that the Reserve Bank of Australia will announce its second rate cut of 2015 when it meets on Tuesday, the first trading day after markets close for the Easter long weekend.
Japan’s Nikkei stock average ended 1.5 percent higher, after skidding to a three-week low in the previous session.
U.S. crude oil fell more than $ 1 to $ 49.01 per barrel and Brent crude futures were down $ 1.38 to $ 55.72, as officials from the big global powers remained locked in nuclear talks with Iran that, if successful, could allow the Islamic state to release more crude oil onto world markets.
Gold hovered above $ 1,200 an ounce, clinging to gains from the prior session when it rose the most in two months, while London nickel climbed nearly 2 percent on technical buying, sparked after traders brought more into China following a steep price drop earlier in the week.
(Reporting by Lionel Laurent; Additional reporting by Blaise Robinson, Karin Strohecker, Marius Zaharia and Anirban Nag; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Hugh Lawson)
- Lionel Laurent