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Most Asian markets slip ahead of US job report, European shares edge higher after ECB stimulus

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HONG KONG - European stocks edged higher a day after the European Central Bank unveiled new measures to boost economic growth but other benchmarks struggled Friday as investors awaited the U.S. jobs report for May.

Global market reaction to the ECB measures, which included interest rate cuts and a new liquidity program for banks, was short-lived as investors focused on the jobs data.

In early European trading, Germany's DAX rose 0.2 per cent to 9,969.12 and France's CAC 40 gained 0.1 per cent to 4,555.33. Britain's FTSE 100 advanced 0.3 per cent to 9,835.02.

U.S. stocks were poised to open higher. Dow futures edged up 0.2 per cent to 16,487.00 and S&P 500 futures were up less than 0.1 per cent to 1,939.70.

Most Asian benchmarks ended lower. Japan's Nikkei 225 closed nearly flat at 15,077.24 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng slipped 0.7 per cent to 22,951.04.

In mainland China, the Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.5 per cent to 2,029.96. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.5 per cent to 5,464.00. Markets in South Korea were closed for a holiday.

"Today, the U.S jobs report will garner most focus while investors continue to digest the ECB decision," strategists at Credit Agricole CIB said in a report.

The U.S. nonfarm payrolls report due Friday will likely set the tone for markets for the following week as traders assess whether it changes the Federal Reserve's current policy stance of not rushing to raise interest rates.

Analysts forecast that U.S. employers added 220,000 jobs last month after adding 288,000 in April. A fourth straight 200,000-plus monthly job gain would add to evidence that the job market in the world's biggest economy is strengthening.

The monthly U.S. jobs report "at present seems to be one of the few economic releases that is still able to make significant waves in markets," said Michael Every, head of Asia financial markets research at Rabobank.

Markets may cheer even if Friday's number comes in lower than expected, because it would raise the prospect of policymakers delaying their scaling back of monetary stimulus, Every said.

"Equities would no doubt also be happy with the prospect of an even longer period of monetary policy largesse," he said.

The euro weakened to $1.3637 from $1.3659 in late trading Thursday. The dollar slipped to 102.29 yen from 102.43 in late trading Thursday.

Oil prices dipped, with benchmark crude for July delivery down 9 cents to $102.39 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 16 cents to settle at $102.48 on Thursday.

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