LONDON, March 8 (Reuters) - European stock index futures rose on Friday, buoyed by fresh signs of Chinese economic growth and on expectations of a further pickup in U.S. employment. The March futures contract for the euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index was up by 0.7 percent, while the futures contract for Germany's DAX rose 0.5 percent and France's CAC-40 futures advanced 0.6 percent. Asian shares rose on Friday, lifted by data that showed that China's February exports grew 21.8 percent from a year earlier, more than double the rise that had been forecast, while imports fell 15.2 percent, deeper than an 8.8 percent drop that analysts had expected. The publication of U.S. non-farm payrolls employment data at 1330 GMT will also be a key event for many investors on Friday. Employers are expected to have added 160,000 jobs to their payrolls last month, picking up slightly from January's 157,000 count, according to a Reuters survey of economists. While that would only be enough to hold the unemployment rate steady at 7.9 percent, it would be another sign of the economy's fundamental health, which has already propelled the Dow Jones industrial average to record highs. Capital Spreads dealer Jonathan Sudaria said some traders were expecting that Friday's U.S. employment data would follow the positive trend of the U.S ADP National Employment Report earlier this week, which showed that private employers had added 198,000 jobs to payrolls last month. Central Markets senior broker Joe Neighbour also said European equity markets were likely to get a lift from the fresh signs of growth in China and expectations of more economic recovery in the United States. "Asia is up quite strongly on the back of the robust Chinese data, and that's going to give us a leg up higher, and the ADP number on Wednesday suggests that today's number from the U.S. will be pretty decent," said Neighbour. The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index, which had hit a 4-1/2 year intraday high of 1,193.35 points earlier this week, closed down 0.1 percent at 1,185.17 points on Thursday. Some strategists and traders have forecast a minor pull-back on European equities in March, with uncertainty over Italy's political deadlock weighing on some investors' minds, although most expect that any stock market retreat will be short-lived and a relatively minor one of maybe three percent. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- MARKET SNAPSHOT AT 0743 GMT LAST PCT CHG NET CHG S&P 500 1,544.26 0.18 % 2.8 NIKKEI 12,283.6 2.64 % 315.54 2 MSCI ASIA <.MIASJ0000P 556.91 0.58 % 3.20 EX-JP US> EUR/USD 1.3086 -0.14 % -0.0018 USD/JPY 95.35 0.57 % 0.5400 10-YR US TSY 2.003 -- 0.01 YLD 10-YR BUND YLD 1.498 -- 0.01 SPOT GOLD $1,578.2 -0.01 % -$0.14 6 US CRUDE $91.54 -0.02 % -0.02 > GLOBAL MARKETS-Asian shares rise, dollar at fresh peak vs yen before jobs > U.S. STOCKS-Dow closes at another high, eyes turn to U.S. payrolls > Nikkei hits new 4-1/2 year high on exporters and real estates > TREASURIES-Prices fall as jobless data stirs optimism on economy > FOREX-Dollar climbs to 3-1/2-year high vs yen before U.S. jobs > PRECIOUS-Gold hovers near $1,580/oz; US jobs data in focus > METALS-Copper steady, eyes first weekly gain in four on China prospects > Brent slips below $111 on N Sea pipeline restart, China data supports COMPANY NEWS: EADS /LAGARDERE : Media group Lagardere set a timetable for its exit from EADS on Thursday, pledging to sell its 7.4 percent stake in the European aerospace and defence group before July 31. SAS : Scandinavian airline SAS reported on Friday a narrower pretax loss in its November-January quarter and stuck by its forecast for a profit in the 2012/13 fiscal year. VAN LANSCHOT : Private Dutch bank Van Lanschot on Friday announced a strategy review to boost profit after swinging to a larger than expected net loss of 155.4 million euros. RHI : Austrian fireproof materials maker RHI stuck to its 2013 outlook on Friday but said it would cut investment and production capacity due to lower growth in Europe. STHREE : Staffing company SThree Plc said first-quarter profit fell 3 percent as employers in Britain and continental Europe continued to shy away from recruiting permanent hires.