European shares gain for 9th session, focus on jobs data
* FTSEurofirst 300 index rises 0.2 percent
* Pan-European index gains for 9th session
* Focus on U.S. jobs data, whisper numbers higher
By Atul Prakash
LONDON, April 4 (Reuters) - European shares advanced for a ninth straight session on Friday, with investors betting a U.S. jobs report would show recent economic weakness was due to the cold winter and that the recovery remains on track.
The widely-tracked non-farm payrolls data, due at 1230 GMT, is expected to show the U.S. economy created jobs at the fastest pace in four months in March. Median forecasts point to a rise of 200,000 in payrolls, though the whisper numbers in the markets indicated a higher reading.
Credit Agricole expected an addition of 225,000 jobs in March, while Societe Generale predicted that an improvement in weather conditions, along with solid underlying demand for new workers, had helped employers to add 275,000 more jobs.
Expectations of solid payroll numbers rose after the ADP National Employment Report showed on Wednesday U.S. companies picked up the pace of hiring in March.
"After an encouraging ADP report this week, it's highly possible that the non-farm payrolls numbers will be very solid today. The market has mostly priced in a better-than-expected number, but a much stronger reading will trigger a rally," said Christian Stocker, equity strategist at UniCredit in Munich.
"If the data shows that only about 200,000 jobs were added, then we could see a bout of profit-taking."
Some analysts said a much stronger-than-expected number could lead to further speculation about an increase in the pace of stimulus reduction and an earlier rate hike from the Federal Reserve, but added that the reaction to a solid number would be positive in the short term.
"This week, the expectations are that there will be a normalisation of employment data, with figures returning to the levels seen prior to the adverse weather conditions that struck the nation back in late 2013, early 2014," said Joshua Mahony, analyst at Alpari.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was up 0.2 percent at 1,347.29 points by 0801 GMT. The index is on track to record a ninth straight session of gains and a third consecutive week of closing higher.
Cyclical sectors were in demand, with the STOXX Europe 600 Basic Resources index gaining 0.9 percent, also helped by a rally in metals prices. Travel and leisure shares were 0.6 percent higher.
Among individual sharp movers, budget airline Easyjet rose 2.2 percent, the top gainer on the FTSEurofirst 300 index as it reported a 4.8 percent increase in passengers in March, in what traders describe as a positive update.
Remy Cointreau rose 6 percent, with traders citing speculation that Brown-Forman was mulling a bid for the luxury drinks company.
Europe bourses in 2014: link.reuters.com/pap87v
Asset performance in 2014: link.reuters.com/gap87v
Today's European research round-up (Editing by Toby Chopra)