The Paris Bourse is set to open slightly higher on Friday, in a climate of optimism ahead of the release of US employment figures, which will fuel the debate on the timing of the Federal Reserve's next rate cuts.

At around 8:15 a.m., the future contract on the CAC 40 index - May delivery - was up 26.5 points at 7923.5, suggesting a positive start to the session.

The U.S. employment report, the market's key statistic, will be the highlight of a week which has been dominated by Fed statements and the extension of the monetary easing horizon.

The market's reaction to the employment figures will be decisive for weekly performance: in a week shortened by the May 1st holiday, the CAC 40 is currently down around 2%.

Employment figures will be all the more closely watched as the Federal Reserve has made them, along with inflation, a fundamental element of its policy stance.

"Data on US non-farm payrolls will provide important information on the tightness of the labor market, which is a crucial element for the outlook on monetary policy", points out Monica Defend, Director of the Amundi Investment Institute.

The latest indicators have confirmed the strength of the US economy, a fortiori reinforcing the cautious stance adopted by the Fed.

'Job creation was again surprisingly strong in the first quarter, with an average of 276,000 new jobs created per month', point out the teams at Oddo BHF.

The labor market still looks solid, but with no signs of wage overheating", adds the private bank.

"Much weaker employment conditions would be needed for the Fed to really weigh up the downside risks to activity against the upside risks to inflation", continues Oddo. At present, the inflation mandate predominates and justifies a 'status quo'", concludes the bank.

Economists are expecting an average of 250,000 jobs created in April, excluding agriculture, compared with 303,000 in March, with the unemployment rate stable at 3.8%.

A statistic that falls short of expectations could, on the other hand, herald further rate cuts and send stock markets higher.

For the time being, investor optimism is fuelled by Apple's solid results, which last night reported better-than-expected EPS and sales, as lower iPhone sales in China were offset by higher service revenues.

The share - down 10% since the start of the year - gained over 6% in pre-market trading, and is expected to support the entire technology sector.

In Europe, the start of the day is also marked by a new series of quarterly corporate results, including those of Crédit Agricole, Legrand and Daimler Truck.

Supporting the Paris stock market, Societe Generale this morning reported a 21.7% drop in net income, group share, to 680 million euros for the first quarter, well above the consensus of 475 million euros.

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