Ed Sheeran smashes UK chart records

Ed Sheeran smashed a host of British pop records on Friday, taking the top five places in the singles charts and all 16 songs from his new album in the top 20."Divide" is the fastest-selling album by a male artist ever in Britain, shifting 672,000 copi...

US jobs machine keeps stock markets humming

World stock markets were mostly higher Friday as investors welcomed strong US jobs data which all but sealed a Federal Reserve rate hike next week.

Wall Street and most European equity markets traded firm in response to the American economy generating 235,000 new jobs in February, well above what economists had forecast.

This was the missing piece of the puzzle Fed watchers were waiting for to make tighter credit a near-certainty when the US central bankers meet next week.

Lower-than-expected wage rises kept a few doubts alive, but mostly the jobs report hit the spot, analysts said.

Upbeat New York helped key European markets hold onto most of their early gains. London and Paris were up at the end of European trading, but Frankfurt slipped a smidgen into negative territory just before the closing bell.

Earlier, Japan's Nikkei jumped 1.5 percent, with declines in the yen boosting exporters.

"Today's US jobs report was more than adequate to justify a rate hike next week," said Craig Erlam at Oanda.

- 'Won't bottle it' -

"The only thing standing in the way of a rate hike now is the Fed itself," he said, "but after its efforts over the last few weeks, surely even it won't bottle it now."

Higher interest rates are not in themselves reason for cheer in the stock market as borrowing costs rise, but analysts said rate rises are a much-needed token of Fed confidence in the US economy in times of uncertainty, including over President Donald Trump's economic program.

"After all, monetary policy is set to be tightened further against the backdrop of strengthening US and global economies," said Oliver Jones at Capital Economics.

Investors are "still unwilling to bet against higher prices despite strong odds of a rate increase in the US next week", LCG analyst Jasper Lawler said of global stock markets.

Elsewhere, oil prices were back on a slippery slope, having earlier Friday recovered ground after sharp mid-week losses. US oil prices dropped 79 cents to $48.49 per barrel, its lowest level since late November.

Worries about a global supply glut, increased US production and questions about an OPEC-Russia led drive to cut output are keeping oil traders on edge.

- Key figures around 2200 GMT -

New York - Dow: UP 0.2 percent at 20,902.98 (close)

New York - S&P 500: UP 0.3 percent at 2,372.60 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: UP 0.4 percent at 5,861.73 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.4 percent at 7,343.08 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 0.1 percent at 11.963.18 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.2 percent at 4,993.32 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.3 percent at 3,420.54

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 1.5 percent at 19,604.61 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 0.3 percent at 23,568.67 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.1 percent at 3,212.76 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0672 from $1.0576 Thursday

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2169 from $1.2162

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 114.78 yen from 114.98 yen

Oil - Brent North Sea: DOWN 82 cents at $51.37 per barrel

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 79 cents at $48.49 per barrel

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