* FTSEurofirst 300 index rises 0.2 percent
* Pan-European index gains for 9th session
* Focus on U.S. jobs data, gains expected
By Atul Prakash
LONDON, April 4 (Reuters) - European shares edged higher on Friday, heading for a ninth straight day of gains, as investors bet a jobs report would show recent weakness in the U.S. economy was caused by a harsh winter and its recovery was on track.
The widely followed 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 called for a gain of 200,000 in payrolls. Some expect much more.
Credit Agricole forecast 225,000 jobs were added in March. Societe Generale predicted that better weather and demand for workers led employers to add 275,000 jobs. Expectations of solid payroll numbers rose after ADP’s National Employment Report on Wednesday showed 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,” said Christian Stocker, an equity strategist at UniCredit in Munich.
“The market has mostly priced in a better-than-expected number, but a much stronger reading will trigger a rally,” Stocker said. “If the data shows that only about 200,000 jobs were added, then we could see a bout of profit-taking.”
The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares rose 0.2 percent to 1,347.59 points by 1021 GMT. The index is on track to record nine straight gains and three consecutive weeks of higher closes.
Some analysts said a much stronger-than-expected jobs number could lead to further speculation the Federal reserve will speed up the pace of stimulus reduction and raise interest rates earlier. The reaction to a higher number should still be good, they said.
“U.S. economic sentiment is improving and today’s U.S. jobs data would show further signs of strength,” Ben Hauzenberger, fund manager at Zurich-based Swisscanto Asset Management, which manages about 60 billion Swiss francs ($67.29 billion), said.
“I am positive on Europe. A lot of things have been done to improve the economic situation and valuations are still quite attractive. Cyclical sectors such as capital goods and software are looking very interesting.”
Cyclicals were in demand, with the STOXX Europe 600 Basic Resources index gaining 1.1 percent, also helped by a rally in metals prices. Auto shares rose 1 percent, while travel and leisure shares were 0.7 percent higher.
Among individual movers, budget airline Easyjet rose 2.3 percent, the top gainer on the FTSEurofirst 300 index, after reporting a 4.8 percent rise in passenger traffic in March, in what traders describe as a positive update.
Remy Cointreau rose 3.8 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
$1 = 0.8916 Swiss Francs Editing by Larry King