Nestle helps European shares edge up before U.S. jobs data
* FTSEurofirst 300, Euro STOXX 50 both up 0.3 pct
* U.S. payrolls >200,000 could trigger selloff - BTIG
* SG sees weak number as negative for risk assets
* Nestle rallies as Givaudan stake sale frees up capital
By Francesco Canepa
LONDON, Dec 6 (Reuters) - A rally in Swiss food firm Nestle helped European stocks snap their longest losing streak in six months on Friday, although the market's rise was capped by caution ahead of the release of key U.S. jobs data later in the day.
Indexes stayed within tight trading ranges before the publication of U.S. non-farm payrolls at 1330 GMT, expected to shed light on the state of the world's largest economy and, indirectly, on when the Federal Reserve's equity-friendly stimulus programme may be dialled back.
European equities have fallen 4 percent since hitting a 5-1/2 year peak in November, weighed down by concerns about a growth slowdown in the euro zone and the possible curbing of the Fed's asset purchase programme, which has driven investors out of low-yielding bonds into shares in the past year.
Non-farm payrolls are expected to have increased by 180,000 last month, down from October's gain of 204,000 jobs. The U.S. unemployment rate is forecast to slip a tenth of a percentage point to 7.2 percent.
"It all depends on this data," Nick Xanders, head of strategy at BTIG, said. "If it's over 200,000, there's a real risk that everyone gets their knickers in a twist and we go down further. If it's more like 175-180,000 I think people would be generally more positive."
Recent U.S. data has been generally strong, fuelling speculation the Fed may start cutting its quantitative easing programme (QE) earlier than March - the market's base case expectation - and possibly as soon as this month.
"Investors should be well aware that sooner or later there will be tapering, be it in December - as there are fears at the moment although we don't believe that - or later," Christoph Riniker, head of strategy research at Julius Baer, said.
He estimates any stock market swing following the announcement that QE will be reduced should be limited to around 5 percent.
Justin Haque, a pan-European broker at Hobart Capital Markets, was buying into recent share price dips, betting the Fed was unlikely to start cutting its programme before the new Fed's chairman, Janet Yellen, replaces Ben Bernanke on Feb. 1.
While traders bet a weak jobs reading would warrant more stimulus from the Fed for longer, fundamental investors stress this would be negative for stocks, which depend on economic growth for their earnings.
Societe Generale, in a note, said a payroll reading of 150,000 would cause a drop in stocks.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index was up 0.3 percent at 1,265.11 points at 1108 GMT, putting the index on track to end a four-day slide, the longest reversal since June.
The blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index was up 7.21 points, also 0.3 percent, at 2,960.58 points, having traded in a 12-point range since the open.
Nestle was the single biggest contributor to the FTSEurofirst 300's rise as it offloaded its 10 percent shares in fragrance and flavour maker Givaudan, potentially freeing up to 1.08 billion Swiss francs ($1.20 bln) for share buybacks or acquisitions.
"They don't need it and (shares) had a great rally so they might as well ... make a better use of the capital, whether it's buying another business or buying back shares," BTIG's Xanders said.
Nestle's stock rose 1.2 percent while L'Oreal, in which Nestle owns a 29.5 percent stake, rose 3.4 percent.