Investors remain cautious ahead of US' employment report. In the commodity sector, gold pulls back after rising for the first time in 8 days while crude oil price weakens further to 81.6. The agricultural complex outperforms with wheat futures extending rally for a third day amid Russian's export ban. Equities are modestly higher as driven by strong corporate earnings.

Russia, the world's 3rd largest wheat producer, announced to ban grain exports from August 15 to December 31 as the country's worst drought in half a century reduces yields. US wheat futures jumped more than +5% today, bringing this week's rally to almost 25%. Some concern that other countries may follow Russia's ban and will eventually cause inflation in food price. While less significant in developed economies, food and energy costs take up more than 50% of household expenditure in emerging economies. Rise in food prices can be reflected quickly to consumer price level. If the ban prolongs and spreads to other countries, gold may benefit can consumers or investors may use gold to hedge against inflation.

Economic data released in Europe and Canada was rather disappointing. In the UK, industrial production surprisingly contracted -0.5% m/m in June, compared with consensus of +0.3%, after a +0.7% rise a month ago. On annual basis, the reading eased to +1.3% from a downwardly revised +2.5%. Manufacturing production gained another +0.3% m/m in June while the reading from a year ago eased to +4.1% from a downwardly revised +4.2%. Germany's industrial production unexpectedly contracted -0.6% m/m in June after soaring +2.9% (revised from +2.6%) in the prior month. In Canada, the number of payrolls dropped -9.3K in July after increasing +93.2K in June. The market had anticipated a rise to +10.3K.

The data was upstaged by better-than-expected earnings results. RBS posted a profit for the first time in 2007. The bank reported net income of 9M pounds in 1H10, compared with a loss of 1.04B pound the same period last year. The market had estimated a loss of 47M pound. Umicore, the world's largest precious-metals recycler, forecast that full-year profit before interest, tax and one-time items will increase to 315-335M euro, compared with previous forecast of 260-290M euro. Upbeat company results hold up European stocks and the Stoxx 600 Index climbed +0.3%.

Earlier in Asia, stocks rose driven by stronger-than-expected earnings from Cheung Kong (Holdings) Ltd and its affiliate its Hutchison Whampoa. Statistics show that 40% of the MSCI Asia Pacific Index's companies that reported profit since July 12 have beaten analysts' estimates, while 25% have missed.