* MSCI equity index barely higher after mixed U.S. data
* Emerging markets index down slightly
* Treasuries yields rise; oil edges up
By Caroline Valetkevitch
NEW YORK, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Global equity markets mostly inched up on Wednesday as U.S. services sector data showing a pickup in growth was offset by a weaker-than-expected U.S. private jobs report, while the yen rose to near two-month highs.
The mixed data left investors uncertain over the pace of the U.S. recovery. The S&P 500 was lower, adding to a recent slide that investors speculate could be part of a long-awaited correction.
Two private surveys showed an uptick in U.S. growth in January. The Institute for Supply Management said growth picked up in the dominant U.S. service sector in January, with steady strength in private-sector hiring, while Markit’s report on service-sector activity showed growth quickened to a four-month high in January and hiring remained robust.
Separately, the ADP National Employment Report showed U.S. private employers added 175,000 jobs in January, just shy of analysts’ expectations. The report precedes the highly anticipated U.S. monthly payrolls data on Friday.
Markets have been volatile in recent weeks on concerns about demand and turmoil in emerging market currencies.
“Today’s (data) almost just added to the confusion, or added to the indecision, as to what exactly should we believe,” said Ryan Detrick, senior technical strategist at Schaeffer’s Investment Research in Cincinnati.
Calmer markets in vulnerable emerging nations like Turkey, South Africa and Russia helped to offset some of the recent jitters, along with Markit’s euro zone Composite PMI, which showed the 18-member bloc’s recovery becoming increasingly broad-based.
On Wall Street, trading was volatile. The benchmark S&P 500 hit a session low of 1,737.92, marking its lowest level since Oct. 18, before briefly climbing into positive territory.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 3.8 points or 0.02 percent, to 15,441.44, the S&P 500 lost 3.58 points or 0.2 percent, to 1,751.62 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 16.349 points or 0.41 percent, to 4,015.171.
A global equity index was up 0.2 percent, while an index of European shares ended 0.1 percent higher. MSCI’s emerging markets index was down just 0.02 percent.
“It will be a buying opportunity when investors feel comfortable this rout we’re in is over,” said Paul Mendelsohn, chief investment strategist at Windham Financial Services in Charlotte, Vermont. “I don’t think they want to step in front of it just yet until they have a feeling of where the bottom is going to be. We’re not there yet.”
In the foreign exchange market, the yen rose toward two-month highs against the dollar and euro as the stock market struggled, and ongoing worries about emerging markets kept safe-haven currencies attractive.
The greenback was last 0.3 percent lower to 101.39 yen . The euro was down 0.2 percent to 137.06 yen after hitting a session low 136.51 yen.
Against the dollar, the euro was slightly lower at $1.3515 amid caution the European Central Bank could sound a more dovish tone at Thursday’s policy review.
U.S. Treasuries yields rose as investors bet Friday’s jobs report will come in relatively strong.
“I think that most participants are looking for a stronger number, mainly so they can buy at higher yields,” said Thomas di Galoma, co-head of fixed-income rates at ED&F Man Capital in New York.
Benchmark 10-year Treasuries yields were just above 2.65 percent, after falling from more than 3 percent at the beginning of the year as investors fled emerging market assets and stocks tumbled, increasing the safe-haven demand for U.S. government debt. The 10-year U.S. Treasury note was down 13/32 in price to yield 2.6711 percent.
Weakening economic data has increased views the Federal Reserve may ease reductions in its bond purchase program if the economy worsens, though many market participants say the data needs to change considerably from current levels to alter the Fed’s plans.
Spot gold rose as much as 1.5 percent to a session high of $1,273.26 an ounce after the U.S. data. It was last up 0.3 percent at $1,257.80.
Oil prices edged higher. A U.S. industry report showed lower inventories and robust heating fuel demand due to cold weather in the United States.
The American Petroleum Institute’s report on Tuesday showed crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, hub fell by 1.6 million barrels last week and distillates by 1.5 million barrels. Distillates include heating oil.
Brent crude was up 45 cents at $106.23 and U.S. crude gained 19 cents to settle at $97.38.