RTTNews - Lower index futures point towards a negative opening by the European markets on Friday, as investors await a crucial U.S. jobs report, due later in the day to seek insight into the health of the world's largest economy.

In Europe, a report by Statistics Finland said new orders in the manufacturing sector dropped 34.5% year-over-year in June, slower than the 39.5% fall in the preceding month. New orders declined for the 11th consecutive month in June. Separately, the Federal Statistical Office said the German trade surplus increased to EUR 12.2 billion in June from EUR 9.5 billion in May. Economists had expected the surplus to rise to EUR 10.6 billion.

U.K's Office for National Statistics is scheduled to report producer prices data later in the session. After falling 0.2% in June, output prices are expected to stay flat on a monthly basis. Meanwhile, input prices are forecast to slip 0.8% in July, reversing June's 1.5% increase.

Asian markets showed a mixed performance on Friday, with Japan, New Zealand and South Korea showing modest gains.

On Wall Street, stocks surrendered early gains and posted moderate losses overnight, as traders did some profit taking ahead of the key employment data on tap for Friday. Though there were some encouraging signs on the jobless claims front, sales figures from major retailers were somewhat disappointing. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 0.27%, the Nasdaq Composite eased 1% and the S&P 500 index drifted down 0.56%.

Crude oil prices finished modestly lower at $71.94 a barrel, down 3 cents or 0.04% in New York trading on Thursday, weighed down by a further decline on Wall Street and the strengthening of the dollar. In Asian trading on Friday, the commodity pulled back further to $71.62 a barrel.

In corporate news, Air France-KLM Group said Thursday that passenger traffic fell 3.3 percent in July compared to a year-ago period, even as it managed to improve occupancy of its aircraft by reducing capacity by 4.1 percent.

Standard & Poor's on Thursday cut its ratings on car maker PSA Peugeot Citroen into BB-plus or junk, as it expects Peugeot's profitability and financial profile to deteriorate significantly in 2010.

Switzerland's largest insurer Zurich Financial Services AG appointed Martin Senn as its new chief executive officer, succeeding James Schiro, who is retiring after seven years in charge.

Jean-Pierre Mustier, the former head of investment banking and head of asset management at Societe Generale SA resigned after the French market regulator opened a probe for alleged insider trading.

Allianz SE, Europe's biggest insurer by market value, beat expectations with a 21 percent rise in second-quarter net profit.

Evotec AG reported a narrower second-quarter net loss of EUR 8.57 million or EUR 0.08 per share compared to EUR 12.01 million or EUR 0.13 per share a year ago.

Royal Bank of Scotland reported a second-quarter pro-forma loss attributable to ordinary shareholders of GBP 140 million, compared to a loss of GBP 1.05 billion last year.

Lombard Medical Technologies plc's half-year pre-tax loss narrowed to £4.35 million from £5.11 million a year ago.

Catlin Group said its net income for the six month period was $217.6 million, higher than $132.2 million in the previous year

The European markets rose for the first time in three days on Thursday, as banking stocks rallied after the Bank of England increased its bond purchase program by £50 billion and the European Central Bank left its key interest rate unchanged at a record low of 1% for the third straight month. The FTSEurofirst 300 index of pan-European blue chips closed 0.43% higher, while the narrower DJ Stoxx 50 index rose 0.50%. Around Europe, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index advanced 0.93%, France's CAC 40 index gained 0.56% and Germany's DAX index rose 0.32%.

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