European stocks traded mostly flat on Friday, as investors took to the sidelines ahead of an important update on U.S. jobs. Airlines and travel companies fell after the U.K. government removed Portugal from its list of safe travel destinations.
Asian stocks were mixed, while U.S. stock futures ES00, -0.04% YM00, -0.10% NQ00, -0.04% stalled ahead of payrolls data and on the heels of a weaker close. Led by technology names, equities slipped on Thursday after strong private-sector hiring and weekly jobless claims data, and the Federal Reserve’s decision to start selling the corporate bonds it bought last year amid the pandemic.
Data due later is expected to show 671,000 jobs were added in May, from a disappointing 266,000 gain in April, according to economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. But a strong report could trigger market volatility, analysts warned.
“The welcome return to economic growth continues to be tempered by fears of rising prices, as elements of supply and demand remain out of kilter,” Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor, told clients in a note.
“A particularly strong reading would reignite the debate on monetary policy. While the Federal Reserve continues to maintain its view of inflation as a passing phase, there are nonetheless suspicions that the voices for the tapering of Quantitative Easing – if not interest rates – are becoming louder,” said Hunter.
Airline and travel stocks were again under pressure after the U.K. government’s decision to remove Portugal from its quarantine-free travel list, citing concerns about coronavirus variants. The country was opened up for travel less than a month ago.
Speculation that the decision was coming hit travel-related shares on Thursday, and those stocks continue to slide on Friday. Shares of easyJet EZJ, -1.36% and International Consolidated Airlines IAG, -1.43% fell around 1.5%, Ryanair RYA, -1.13% fell nearly 1.3%, Wizz Air WIZZ, -2.90% was 2.7% lower and and Carnival CUK, -1.97% dropped 1.6%.
Shares of French media conglomerate Vivendi VIV, -0.34% were modestly lower. Hedge-fund billionaire William Ackman’s SPAC is poised for a deal for a 10% stake in Universal Music Group, a subsidiary of Vivendi, that would value the music business giant at around $40 billion, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing sources. That would be the largest SPAC transaction on record if it goes ahead.