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 / Updated  / Source: Reuters
By Reuters

Stocks struggled for direction on Friday and U.S. Treasury yields remained anchored close to this week's record low, marking their longest run of consecutive weekly declines in four years ahead of the latest U.S. unemployment report.

The data are expected to show solid job creation in June, but worries over the world economy following Britain's vote to leave the European Union and a deepening crisis in Italian banks continue to sour investor sentiment globally.


The first measure of UK consumer confidence since the Brexit referendum two weeks ago showed the steepest decline in morale in more than five years, according to research company GfK on Friday.

News that snipers killed five police officers during rallies in Dallas to protest against the fatal shooting of two black men this week also affected markets, keeping them in narrow ranges ahead of the June non-farm payrolls report.

The 10-year U.S. Treasury yield fell 1 basis point to 1.37 percent, on course for a run of seven weekly declines - something not seen since mid-2012 - and close to Tuesday's record low 1.32 percent.

Europe's FTSEuroFirst 300 index of leading shares was flat in early trade at 1,277 points, on track for its biggest weekly loss in five months, MSCI's global stock index slipped 0.1 percent and Asian shares ex-Japan lost 0.4 percent.

Japan's Nikkei fell 0.9 percent as the yen strengthened, and U.S. stock futures pointed to a slight rise at the open on Wall Street of around 0.1 percent.

Market attention turned to the June jobs data, which are expected to show job growth of 175,000 last month and a slight pick-up in wage growth. But investors remained wary given the unexpected negative surprise in May.

"If we see another weak print, then the risk-off mood that prevailed at the start of the week is likely to return with a vengeance," Rabobank analysts said in a note to clients on Friday.

"Indeed, an 'impossible and ridiculous' call such as 1.00 percent 10-year U.S. Treasuries would start to look all too possible and extremely plausible. In short, a trapdoor is likely to open underneath bond yields, taking us ever-deeper into ultra-low/negative territory on a global basis," they said.

Though strong payrolls data would spark fresh speculation of a U.S. rate increase later this year, it would also trigger a fresh round of currency weakness and likely policy tightening in emerging markets.

In currencies, the dollar remained under pressure against the backdrop of low Treasury yields and the flattest U.S. yield curve in almost nine years. A flat curve - the narrowing of the difference between 10- and 2-year yields - is a harbinger of slowing growth, low inflation and low interest rates.

The pound is still on track for its third weekly decline and is down 13 percent against the dollar since the June 23 Brexit vote. That's on a par with the biggest declines in modern history among the world's top four currencies.

"If sterling had overshot then we would have come back to the mid-$1.30s. But we haven't," said Simon Derrick, head of global currency strategy at Bank of New York Mellon in London, adding that a fall to $1.20 or even below wouldn't be a surprise.

Oil prices recovered from Thursday's 5 percent slide to two-month lows on the back of weekly crude stocks data, but were still on course for a fall of around 7 percent on the week. Brent crude futures were last up almost 1 percent at $46.85 and U.S. crude was up a similar amount at $45.56.

Spot gold edged down 0.3 percent on Friday to $1,356 an ounce but is set for its sixth consecutive weekly gain.