Barron's

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U.S. stock futures and European equities inched lower on Friday as investors awaited an important update on U.S. employment, which could spark market volatility if stronger than expected.

In Asia, stocks finished mixed, with a 0.4% drop for the Nikkei 225 index, but a 0.5% rise for China’s CSI 300. The Stoxx Europe 600 index was modestly lower.

Stock futures slipped following Thursday’s weaker session. Equities fell, led by technology names, after strong ADP private-sector hiring data and weekly jobless claims, and the Federal Reserve’s decision to start selling the corporate bonds it bought last year amid the pandemic. The Dow Jones Industrial Average  lost 0.07%, the  S&P 500, 0.36%, and the  Nasdaq Composite, 1%.

Investors have become increasingly concerned that the strong bounceback from the pandemic is pressuring prices, something that could ultimately spark a faster-than-expected move to cool the economy by the Fed.

Friday’s data is expected to show a gain of 671,000 jobs in May, which would mark a sharp rebound from a disappointing 266,000 rise in April, according economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal.

“Considering that nonfarm forecast lies somewhere between the levels expected last month, and the number produced last month, it will be interesting to see how investors react. It might hit that sweet spot – strong enough to point to a continuing recovery, but not strong enough to prompt any action from the Fed,” said Connor Campbell, financial analyst at SpreadEx, in a note to clients.

Regardless of how the jobs numbers turn out, “the arguments on both sides of the inflation and overheating debate are hardly likely to go away soon,” said a team of strategists at Deutsche Bank led by Jim Reid.

So-called meme stocks, which are promoted by retail traders in online social media forums, are likely to stay in the spotlight. AMC Entertainment fell 5% in premarket trading, a day after share-boosting news that the movie-theater chain raised $587.4 million selling more stock.

Hedge-fund billionaire William Ackman’s special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) and Vivendi are in talks that could see his Pershing Square Tontine Holdings buy a 10% stake in Universal Music Group, a subsidiary of the French media conglomerate. The potential deal would give Universal Music an enterprise value of €35 billion ($42.4 billion), Vivendi said in a statement on Friday.

In Europe, shares of airline and travel stocks came under pressure after the U.K. government’s Thursday decision to take Portugal off a quarantine-free travel list, as it cited concerns about coronavirus variants. Shares of easyJet, International Consolidated Airlines Group, Ryanair, Wizz Air and cruise operator Carnival all fell.